Can we schedule a rain delay more often?
After a long rain delay, the Cubs offense caught on fire. Finally. And even got a few (lots) of hits with men in scoring position. 7-for-13 with RISP? Can I get a Hallelujah?
Enough runs to survive another rocky bullpen outing. Production from the entire lineup. Garza survived the rain to pitch very well. Castro returned from his mini-vacation. Pena remembered that not all at-bats must end in a HR, K or BB. It’s fine to hit a single or double every once in a while. Especially with men on base. Quade didn’t try to get just one more inning out of a starter, and allowed the relief pitcher to start a fresh inning.
Hallelujah. A Good Day At Wrigley.
Oh, and I promised not to talk about the future plans of He Who Shall Not Be Named until the season is over. You’re welcome.
If the Cubs bats don’t look hot again today, I’ll be the guy standing on the roof at Wrigley, dumping buckets of water on the home plate umpire.
The sun’ll come out tomorrow. Bet your bottom dollar that tomorrow there’ll be sun!
But can we have rain again today?
Cancel the APB. End the CPD stakeout of Dempsters home in Wrigleyville – that “Pinella’s Pizza” truck wasn’t fooling anyone anyway. Contact the Illinois National Guard. Alert the Special Agent in Charge. The search is over.
Cancel their AWOL status.
Ryan Dempster and Carlos Pena have finally reported for the 2011 baseball season.
It’s unfortunate that they were unable – for personal reasons – to join the team on April 1st, but we are very excited for their arrival.
Dempster turned in his first quality start of the season (after a 9.58 ERA in April).
Pena hit his first homerun of his Cubs career (and ended a dismal 3-37 stretch).
Castro is on the cover of SI.
Barney is the NL Rookie of the Month.
Cashner may be pitching to real, honest-to-goodness hitters in Arizona by next week.
Wells may not be far behind.
Dempster and Pena are not only important pieces for this team, they are important leaders of this team. And it’s hard to lead effectively when your own house isn’t in order. Hopefully, this is that elusive spark the Cubs need to achieve escape velocity from the muddy pool of mediocrity.
Oh, and the Cubs win!
We’re #5! We’re #5!
One step at a time.
It’s time to recap April, locate those kernels of hope, drink the blue kool-aid and look forward to May! Woooooooo! May!
After a rough start, the Cardinals promenaded their way back to the top of the division, with the rest of the teams mired in the mud within a few games of the .500 Reds. The Cubs? Right about where most people expected them to be. I was hoping for better, but there are plenty of reasons why a 12-14 record in April is exciting…
- The Starting Pitching has not been good. Not good at all.
What was hoped to be a strength struggled through the monsoons of April, the injuries to Cash and Wells, and the disappearance of Dempster. The Cubs rank dead last in the NL in quality starts (it’s not even close), team ERA, and walks issued. Garza and Big Z have 7 of the 8 quality starts. The Cubs still managed to win 12 games.
- The Bullpen was a little bit Dr. Jeckyll and a little bit Mr. Hyde.
Marmol, Marshall and Wood have been very, very good. Samardzija has been shockingly useful. It’s almost as if he realized this is the last year the Cubs are going to be paying him. The rest have been up and down and up and down. Although, with even a little bit of starting pitching, the Cubs won’t depend on them nearly as much. Despite the ups and downs, and the fan-favorite All-Bullpen Days, the Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Offense has mainly consisted of Castro, Barney and Soriano.
Zambrano is tied for THIRD on the team in homeruns with 1. Soriano has almost as many homeruns as the REST OF THE TEAM COMBINED (10 of 21 total). Barney has more RBI than Ramirez (14 – 11). Pena is SOMEHOW hitting worse than last year. Unsurprisingly, the Cubs are 12th in the NL in runs scored. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- The Cubs do not lead the league in Antidefense, but they’re close.
Not every Cub feat of antidefense shows up in the errors column. Thankfully. There have been enough botched run-downs, missed bunt assignments, dropped fly-balls (it’s not just a south-side disease), Dunston like throws to first base, throws to the wrong base, and pigeon attacks in the outfield – to lose a few close ones. The Cubs still won 12 games.
- Quade is learning on the job.
Early in the year, I admonished Cub fans to trust in the Quade. I’ll stick to that. He IS getting better. The Quade is sticking with a struggling and/or tiring starter less often (trying to squeeze that ONE more inning out of a pitcher is almost always a big bucket of Fail when facing major league hitters). Heck, he even got thrown out of a game for the first time. And then promptly admitted being wrong for arguing (after seeing the replay). Despite some puzzling batting orders (always overplayed in the media), and lack of Tweeting from the clubhouse… the Cubs still won 12 games.
The Cubs have hit just well enough to hand off some leads to the three headed monster in the back of the bullpen. And that is enough to go 12-14. Despite a lot of room for improvement.
So I’m proudly drinking the Blue Kool-Aid out of a glass that looks half full. 3.5 games back after significantly under-performing for the month? Sign me up.
Now, bring on May. Cardinals and Reds at Wrigley? First road-trip to Fenway?
This is the Month!
Thank goodness for the Blackhawks.
Well then. In the spirit of optimism, I will balance the bad with the good from last night’s Comedy of Errors.
Bad: Castro makes an error in the top of the second inning.
Good: Darwin Ryno Barney homers in the bottom of the first to give the Cubs a lead.
Bad: Castro makes a second error in the top of the second inning, leading to the first Rockie run.
Good: Garza pitching 6 innings: 1 ER, 3 H, 0 HR, 1 BB, 7 K
Bad: Castro makes his third error in the top of the second inning, allowing two more runs to score.
Good: With men on base in the first inning, Carlos Pena did not strike out… he walked… (I’ll do optimism, but I can’t promise to leave out the sarcasm)
Bad: With the bases loaded in the third and two out, Garza grounds out. Not your fault Garzy, we don’t pay you to hit. But it still sucks.
Good: Jeff Baker went 3-4 as the unlikely cleanup hitter.
Bad: Castro went 0-5 in the three hole. He’ll be fine, but it’s hard to argue with the notion that he hits better in the leadoff spot.
Good: Fukudome went 5-5 in the leadoff spot. Damn it, only one of you can lead off, someone has to hit third behind Sandberg.
Bad: Garza makes a throwing error in the fifth, leading to the Rockies fourth consecutive unearned run.
Good: Garza picks off Tulowitzki to end the fifth inning.
Bad: Pena strikes out with two men on base to end the fourth inning.
Good: The much maligned Samardzija (frequently by me) pitched two scoreless innings. And didn’t walk anyone.
Bad: With two men on and two out in the sixth inning, Baker strikes out.
Good: Reed Johnson channels his inner Craig Biggio with the patented ‘pretend to turn away from the inside fastball but don’t actually back away – causing the arm to move directly into the path of the pitch’ move, drawing a HBP. It needs a catchier name, but I like the results.
Bad: Cubs score only three runs, despite plenty of chances.
Good: Cubs pitchers only gave up one earned run.
Bonus Bad: Cubs defense gave up four unearned runs.
Inhale. Exhale. Inhale. Exhale.
Well, it’s April. And the field was wet (apparently only when we were on defense). I’m not worried about it. The boys will bounce back today.
Oh look! The Blackhawks play again tonight… Thank goodness.
The Cubs beat the Padres 1-0 in the 2011 Winter Classic at Wrigley Field last night. In the shootout, Marmol stopped four shooters and Colvin beat Qualls with a wicked top-shelf glove-side wrist shot.
Wait, that was baseball? With temperatures in the 20s? Yikes.
Polar Bear Zambrano, he of the short sleeves, has officially earned his reprieve from my regular Zambrano Watch with the best starting performance for the Cubs this year. 8 innings, 3 hits, 1 walk, 10 strikeouts. No decision, but that’s because…
Wrigley is a hitters ballpark, except, you know, when it’s not. Like last night. When the wind blows straight in at 10-15 mph, and it’s too cold to hold the bat, it’s a pitchers ballpark. The Padres should feel right at home… except for that snow of course.
Colvin’s pinch-hit walk-off double in the tenth may be FAR more important than a single win in April might suggest. Colvin has the raw talent to be an important piece of the Cubs for a long time, but now that the NL pitchers have adjusted to him – he has to adapt. When a rook starts knocking the ball around, teams start to look for a weakness. And when they find it, the entire league exploits it mercilessly, until the hitter adapts. If he adapts. The difference between a ‘AAAA’ hitter and a big league hitter is whether they can adjust. Last night may just give him the confidence that he needs to muscle his way back into the lineup. I’m pretty confident he will. Colvin will be solid. Which brings us to…
The Castro. Castro could be that extremely rare, truly elite hitter. Castro is frightening in that he has so far befuddled the attempts of the opposition to find a weakness. He uses the whole field and while he wants to hit more home runs, he takes what the pitcher gives him – and doesn’t swing for the fences on each pitch. The Castro is exciting to watch.
Congrats again to Zambrano, who appears to have thus far forced the Bad Z into remission. I’m a big fan Z. Keep it up, but…
I’m watching you. We need you, big Z.
The best thing I can say about last night is Chacin helped out my fantasy team…
Well, that’s not true. Other than one inning, where he fell behind the hitters, Garza pitched well. Aramis is starting to heat up, which may be the single most important factor for the Cubs season. And the bullpen was outstanding. For those worried about the Cubs signing of a couple of journeyman starters to minor league contracts this week… this is why. Russell and Samardzjia are pitching well in relief, and are probably best there.
Castro’s error allowed another run to score on a bases clearing triple, but by then the damage was already done. If you don’t take a second to square up the body before the throw you end up pulling a Dunston. But I don’t want to rag on Castro’s defense, which is MUCH improved so far this year. That’s just another thing to work on. No big deal. Any offense by a player not named Ramirez, and one mulligan pitch for Garza… and this would have been a game. C’est la vie.
Sometimes, you just have to tip your cap to a superior team. The Rockies are simply the class of the NL at this point (with the Reds and Phils pretty close behind). Chacin is a bona fide stud, and their offense is going to rough up most pitchers.
This offense is going to be a bit dependent on the long ball, lacking speed and contact hitters (other than Castro, and now Barney/Baker). Sooner or later, hopefully, the home runs increase. And the starters avoid that ONE bad inning they all keep giving up…
And of course… looking for a pick me up, I rolled from the Cubs game right to the Hawks game. Ouch.
I think it was Moreland in the booth last night that mentioned 1984’s Daily Double of Dernier and Sandberg at the top of the order. Castro was 3 for 5 with 3 runs scored… Barney was 2 for 3, 2 walks, 2 runs, 1 rbi.
I’m not going to confuse Barney for Sandberg any time soon… but that was fun to watch. Lots of energy, and plenty of chances for the big guns to drive in runs… which they did. 4 for 9 with RISP. They boys did a good job of making the most of their chances.
Which brings us to the pitching. Great start by Dempster. Which we really really needed.
Is that enough ‘Glass Half Full’? Can I put down the koolaid for a minute to complain, even though the Cubs won?
I trust you Quade. I really do. I know Demp is the ace, and you’re going to need him to battle through some innings this year, help you rest the bullpen… especially with two men down in the rotation already. But… If he’s over 100 pitches, the game is close, it’s in the 7th inning or later, and the FAA calls to demand a flight plan be filed for the last two balls hit… it’s time to go to the bullpen. Great night Demp, we’ve got it from here.