Category: 2012 Season

The Times They are a Changing

Since the Cubs are rebuilding, many discussions have been held on who should stay and who should go. Here is my take:

1. Dempster: For teams who are legitimate World Series contenders, Dempster would be a great addition for any team in need of an improvement to their staff. His stock is high at this point, as he is pitching lights out. But he is aging and maybe has two good seasons left. Epstein should be looking to acquire a closer or a highly sought after young SP with great potential.

2. Soriano: Like Dempster, Soriano is aging and nearing the end of his career. He could benefit any team in need of an experienced bat and outfielder either due to improvement at position or injuries. The Cubs won’t get a great deal for him, but acquiring developmental players at key positions is worth the risk.

3. Soto: With Clevenger showing signs of promise, and Castillo serving as a backup, the Cubs could move Soto for developmental players, but more-so to free up money. I think the risk is worth the possible reward.

4. Wood: I really hope Kerry will retire as a Cub by the end of the season. He has shown devotion, loyalty and love for this organization and it’s fans. But his body cannot handle the big leagues anymore. But if he is unwilling to retire, than he has to be sent down or cut.

5. Marmol: He just needs to go and I don’t care where. The Cubs won’t acquire much for him, but Sveum could use a new razor.

Moving these players will also free up to $47.6 million. This will give Epstein a great deal of money to make moves come the off-season. I feel these are moves that will greatly benefit the organization, giving them the best opportunity for a sorely missed World Series Championship.
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A Wild Ride with the Bullpen

The Cubs bullpen has caused many heartaches, gray hairs and collective breaths to cease. Dempster and Garza pitched gems in the first two games of the 2012 season, carrying late game leads against the Nationals, while Cubs fans helplessly watched as the bullpen seemingly gave the games away. From this moment on, fans have been overly critical and skeptic whenever a reliever begins to warm-up.

The bullpen is 3-7, with 4 SV, a 3.90ERA, in 80.2IP. Collectively, the have allowed 70H, 35ER, 45BB, 6HR and struck out 61 batters. Most notably, the bullpen has given away 3 games in which the Cubs should have walked away with a win, squandering the lead late in a game. They have also been credited with 4 additional losses when the game has either been tied or the Cubs held a 1-run lead.

To Manager Dale Sveum’s credit, he has given every player on the active roster time to adjust to the 2012 season before making any roster moves. However, Marmol’s latest meltdown prompted Sveum to finally address the bullpen woes.

After Marmol single-handedly cost the team yet another win in a 3-4 loss to the Reds in extras, Sveum announced a change at the closer position, designating Russell and Dolis as a closer-by-committee duo.

Three righties: Dolis, Bowden and Camp, and a lefty: Russell, are now the perceived bullpen rotation. The four relievers have a combined record of 3-3, a 2.37ERA, allowed 14ER, 15BB and 30SO in 48.0IP. In last nights’ come from behind victory, Camp, Russell and Dolis combined for 5.0IP, allowing 3H and no runs or walks. This is exactly how the bullpen needs to conduct business day-in and day-out.

The Cubs batters have proven the ability to get hits and score runs throughout the season, as the team has yet to be shutout. The pen allowed for the hitters to come through late in the game, tie the score and ultimately win in extras. Had the pen been able to perform in this manner earlier in the season, the Cubs could be sitting atop the NL Central, with a record of 18-10.

I would still like to see the Cubs acquire a more experienced closer, one who has confidence and can also mentor a young future potential closer. But for now, at least Sveum finally booted Marmol and I’m certain the front office is looking for trade potentials. I just hope Russell and Dolis can carry the load for the interim.

10 Quick Cubs Stats

Here are 10 quick Cubs stats that you may not have known thus far into the 2012 campaign:

Batting

  • There are 22 MLB players who have batted third in 15+ games; only five have yet to hit a home run, Castro being one of them.
  • As a team, the Cubs best day to hit is Saturday (.269 AVG in 3 games) and their worst is Wednesday (.190 AVG in 2 games).
  • The Cubs have 12 SB in 9-inning games; four of which have come in the 8th inning alone. This accounts for 33% of all successful stolen bases by the Cubs.
  • Although the Cubs are batting only .218 with RISP (6th worst in the league), they have 59 runs with RISP, which is the 10th most in the league.
  • The Cubs are the second worst team to bat with two outs; .187 AVG in 182 AB.

Pitching

  • The Cubs are one of three teams who have one or fewer SV (tied for 28th in the league); they also only have had four SVO (tied for second fewest in the league).
  • The starting pitchers for the Cubs have allowed six ER with a combined ERA of 6.75 when the pitch count is between 91-105.
  • The Cubs pitching staff has allowed 28 ER when there are two outs in an inning.
  • When the pitching staff is ahead in the count, the combined ERA is 2.40; opposed to a 7.45 ERA when they are behind in the count.
  • The Cubs starting pitchers are one of only two teams to have seven losses and seven no-decisions (PIT has seven losses and eight no-decisions).

The more you know…

First Roster Move of 2012 Season

In an expected move, the Cubs traded CF Marlon Byrd to the Boston Red Sox for RHP Michael Bowden (RP). The move signaled an important stepping stone for the 2012 season and beyond: Theo Epstein and company are watching the season and are willing to make moves.

Epstein’s rebuilding theme has continued into the first month of the 2012 season. He moved an aging Byrd, who is struggling this season, for a young relief pitcher in a system which is in dire need of bullpen help. The move is encouraging as many fans agree that Byrd is on the decline of his career and the team needs to build for the future. With the glaring focus beginning with the bullpen.

The Cubs bullpen carries a dismal 4.63 ERA (26th in the league), allowing 24 ER (6th most in the league), issuing 29 walks (tied for 3rd most in the league), a WHIP of 1.56 (26th in the league) and is credited with 5 loses (tied for 2nd most in the league). Had the bullpen not blown those leads, the Cubs would be 9-7, 2nd place in the NL Central and giving the Brewers and Reds both an additional loss, rather than wins.

Epstein and Ricketts know the numbers as well, this being why they made the trade and were willing to swallow a large portion of Byrd’s remaining contract. The organization is focused on the future; something many fans of the Cubs are not accustom to.

This move should be an indicator of additional issues the Cubs ownership should be addressing sometime within this season, such as:

    • The lack of a power hitter – The team is ranked last in the entire league for home runs hit with five (5). Even the Pirates have hit more home runs, who boast the worse offense in the league. Many fans are pleading for Rizzo and Jackson to be called up to the majors, but Gordon Wittenmyer interviewed Epstein who indicated the organization is waiting to move either player to the majors. Brian Davis and Andy Behrens further suggest the organization should wait to move either player with statistical analysis to support their reasoning. These reports would indicate Epstein and his staff will look at possible trades throughout the season to solve this problem.
    • An aging roster – The Cubs roster has eight players who are over the age of 30; six of which will be over the age of 35 before the All-Star break. Young promising talent is crucial for the development of this ball club within the next three years and into the next decade. Epstein developed such a talent pool in Boston and will likely carry on this tradition within the Cubs organization. The trade of Byrd was the first step in this direction.

It’s encouraging to see the organization recognize glaring problems and addressing them within the first month of a long season. I’m certain the ownership will continue to make moves to improve the Cubs in the years moving forward.

Only time will tell.

What’s Good After Week One?

As we come to the closing of the first week in the 2012 MLB season, many Cubs’ fans are disheartened by the team’s performance thus far.  Realistically, the Cubs’ record should be 3-2; however, after two blown leads by the bullpen occurring twice in the 8th inning, the Cubs sit at 1-4.  But I’m here to provide support to my fellow fans, and hopefully give a glimmer of hope for the direction the organization is headed.  Let’s look at the areas in which the team has performed well in after week one:

Starting Pitching:

  • Granted, the efforts of Chris Volstad and Paul Maholm are still fresh in everyone’s mind, the Cubs rotation has looked decent.  Dempster, Garza and Samardzija have pitched strong performances in their season debuts, protecting the team’s late game leads to only have the bullpen give it away. Here are the numbers compared to the league:
    • Strike Outs: 1st (31)
    • WHIP: 4th (0.96)
    • HR: 5th (5)
    • IP: 6th (31.1)
    • OPP AVG: 7th (.196)
    • Runs:  9th (15)
    • ERA: 15th (3.73)

Aggressive Base Running:

  • Besides the gaff by Mather representing the tying run during the season opener by being thrown out at home, the Cubs have been running the bases smarter and harder. The Cubs led the league in triples (3) and are ranked 17th in doubles (6). Fans have noticed the hustle down the first base line by Cubs’ batters, even when the play is a routine out; we are very appreciative of the efforts.
  • After finishing the 2011 season ranked 28th in the MLB in Stolen Bases (69), the Cubs are currently ranked 2nd with 5. At this point, the Cubs are averaging one stolen base per game and are on pace to amass 162 stolen bases for the season.

Defensive Play:

  • From Ian Stewart’s throw from his knees to Soriano laying out to in left field, the Cubs have looked better defensively.  They are tied second in the league for fewest errors committed (2), tied fifth in the league for base runners caught stealing (2), and are tied seventh in the league for fielding percentage (.989).  Every fielder is making smart throws, hitting the cutoff man and moving around the diamond effectively in support of each position.

So Cubs’ fans, not everything is terrible with start of this season. Yes, the team has only one win, but remember, this team is rebuilding and moving in the right direction. The on field play proves this. Just like the show, the numbers never lie…

Cubs Announce Portion of 25-man Roster

The Cubs organization met on Wednesday evening to determine the Opening Day 25-man Roster. On Thursday, the organization announced their decision:

Fielders:

Jeff Baker

Darwin Barney

Marlon Byrd

Starlin Castro

Steve Clevenger

David DeJesus

Blake DeWitt

Reed Johnson

Bryan LaHair

Alfonso Soriano

Geovany Soto

Ian Stewart

While the fielders have been announced, Cubs beat reporters have stated that the bullpen is still undetermined. However, the Starting Roatation has been set and the Opening Day Pitcher has been announced. Here are the pitchers still in contention:

Pitchers:

Lendy Castillo

Gerardo Concepcion

Ryan Dempster (First in Rotation)

Rafael Dolis

Matt Garza (Second in Rotation)

Paul Maholm (Fifth in Rotation)

Calos Marmol

Marcos Mateo

Jeff Samardzija (Third in Rotation)

Chris Volstad (Fourth in Rotation)

Kerry Wood