Saturday, April 02, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Padres 9, Cubs 5
"He threw the ball pretty good," Baker said of Dempster. "It seems like he might be the kind of guy who, if he gets out of the first or second inning, he gets his rhythm going. We're still learning about him."
Here's what Dempster had to say.
"I feel like I've been here forever," he said of spring camp. "We're definitely ready for the season to start and having these games mean something and start playing some games for real."
"[Spring games] matter, but they don't matter," he said. "I want to get ready for the season."
However, I'd rather see Ryan work out his problems as a starter during spring training. With only 6 spring games left and Dempster's ERA over 11, I'm not quite as excited about the season as Ryan. If he's ready to go with an ERA like that, something's got to be wrong with his head.
David Kelton continues to challenge Jason Dubois for the role of 4th outfielder. Knowing Dusty, it is unlikely a rookie will be starting, so I expect Todd Hollandsworth to get the bulk of the playing time in LF. Kelton's pinch-hit two-run homer yesterday seemed to impress Baker.
"He's looking pretty good," Baker said. "He plays well, runs well, throws well. He's playing like he wants a spot. That's what you want to see."
Here's a comparison of Kelton and Dubois this spring (22 games each).
Dubois: 42 AB/8 R/13 H/0 2B/1 3B/4 HR/8 RBI/.310 AVG/.643 SLG
Kelton: 40 AB/7 R/14 H/5 2B/0 3B/1 HR/6 RBI/.350 AVG/.550 SLG
Dubois has superior minor league stats overall and has shown a lot more pop than Kelton, both this spring and in the minors. With 5 doubles, Kelton seems to be more of a gap hitter than a reliable power source in the outfield, which we need so badly. Dubois is my pick and, unless he completely flops or gets injured during the remaining 6 spring games, will be Dusty's and Hendry's pick as well.
Friday, March 25, 2005
Angels 6, Cubs 4
With each start, Zambrano solidifies his position as the Cubs' best starter. Not only is his stuff just as good (or better) than Prior's or Wood's, but he's a workhorse with no history of injury problems. Prior may be the "Franchise", but Carlos is simply "#1". When Dusty gave Z the opening day assignment, he finally used his head and realized that Z is the best we've got.
In case you didn't know, Matt Clement was my favorite Cub. I was devastated when the Cubs let him walk. Take away the record (9-13, due to poor run support), and you've got a solid pitcher easily capable of 15+ wins. After looking over his game logs from last year, it is clear that he got cheated out of quite a few wins, and got stuck with quite a few losses. I counted 6 games in which he pitched 6 or more innings, allowed 3 or fewer runs, and did not get a win. It really is a shame. Now, with Prior and Wood battling injuries and the 5th rotation spot still unclaimed, the Cubs could sure use a guy like Clement in the rotation; someone who eats innings and throws a lot of quality starts. Despite his unfortunate departure, I will keep on wearing my Clement jersey with pride.
If you haven't seen the trailers for Star Wars: Episode III, check them out now. You will be blown away! I am counting down the days until the film is released (May 19: 55 days left!)
Sunday, March 20, 2005
I Think I'm in Love
This is one of the finest baseball games I can ever recall playing , and I remember back to "Bases Loaded" for the original Nintendo. I've been playing a lot, which has resulted in very few posts the last few weeks. And with the Cubs--excluding Z, Dubois and a few others--playing like a bunch of Little Leaguers this spring (see yesterday's 11-4 loss against the A's), I haven't felt very compelled to write. However, once April hits, you can expect more regular posting. Now back to MVP.
I won't give an indepth review, but if you want one, check out Goodbye 1908, Hello 2005. I love the game, and have been playing a lot. Owner mode is fascinating, giving the gamer complete control over finances, management, stadium and everything else imaginable. The best part of the game has to be owner mode, and it can be quite a challenge to put a winning team on the field, keep the fans and players happy, and still make a profit. And as in reality, the players are always demanding more money. The mini-games, batting and pitching, are challenging and have resulted in countless hours of enjoyment (plus, I've actually learned how to go with the pitch while batting, instead of trying to pull everything for a homer). I love the retro jerseys, too. There's nothing quite like a 1970's Cubs uniform. Overall, I love the game (in case you haven't figured that out by now) and would recommend it to anyone who loves baseball and videogames.
Cubs play the Padres today at 2:05 CT. Listen on WGN Radio.
Sunday, March 13, 2005
Angels 3, Cubs 2
Clearly, no matter what Dusty Baker says, Carlos is the ace of the staff. Kerry Wood, the projected opening day starter, has never won more than 14 games and has been plagued by injuries in his career, most recently this spring's shoulder trouble. Greg Maddux is nearly 39 years old and his numbers have been in a progressive decline during the last few years. Mark Prior was limited to 118 innings last year and is no sure bet to return to his 18-6, 2.43 ERA 2003 season. Without a doubt, Carlos Zambrano is the most dependable and productive pitcher on the Cubs' staff. If Kerry is injured and unable to start Opening Day, I would love to see Dusty start Zambrano.
On another note (Rant --> On), I would love to see Kerry Wood traded. If only he didn't have that blasted no-trade clause! Wood is entering his 8th season in the majors, and has had a very dissappointing career. Every year, he underachieves; whether due to injury or not is irrevalent. I'm just so tired of hearing people, especially those in the Cubs organization, say that Wood is still developing and is on the verge of a breakout, 20-win season. Wood is 28 years old! He's in the prime of his career. Who cares if he has all the potential in the world? By no means does talent translate into success, in anything. Someday, people are only going to remember Kerry Wood as an immensely talented guy who never realized his potential. Personally, I don't want to see Wood spend any more time in Chicago, simply taking up roster space while making $8 million a year. If he didn't have a no-trade clause, the Cubs could trade him now and probably get a pretty good player(s) in return. Oh well, I guess I'll just have to put up with mediocrity from Wood (Rant --> Off).
Sorry Kerry, you had your chances; Zambrano's #1 now.
Monday, March 07, 2005
Cubs 9, Rangers 4
Note: Corey Patterson was hit on the knee by a pitch in the second inning, and was taken out of the game. Diagnosis--Contusion of the right knee. Whether this is a good or bad thing, is for you to decide.
Split-squad games. Carlos Zambrano faces Joe Blanton and the A's at 2:05 pm at HoHoKam Park, and Glendon Rusch squares off against Runelvys Hernandez and the Royals in Surprise, Arizona.
Sunday, March 06, 2005
NL Central Preview: Cincinnati Reds
2004 Record: 76-84, 4th place
The Reds are quickly gaining recognition as a good team. With seasoned veterans mixed in among a solid young nucleus, this is a team on the rise. Cincinnati executives spent most of the offseason working to improve the team's pitching, which started strong last year but imploded before midseason.
New in '05: LHP Eric Milton (Phillies), RHP Ramon Ortiz (Angels), RHP David Weathers (Marlins), RHP Ben Weber (Angels), LHP Kent Mercker (Cubs), 3B Joe Randa (Royals), and RHP Ricky Stone (Padres)
See Ya: SS Barry Larkin (retired), IF Juan Castro (Twins), RHP John Reidling (Marlins), LHP Phil Norton (Astros), LHP Gabe White (Braves), 1B/OF John Vander Wal (unsigned), RHP Todd Van Poppel (Mets), and OF Darren Bragg (Indians)
The Outfield: The Reds have four candidates to fill the three outfield spots. Adam Dunn is a lock in LF after having a break-out 2004 in which he finished 3rd in the league in HR (46), 10th in slugging % (.569), and 6th in walks (108). Despite his major league record 195 strikeouts, Dunn had an OBP of .388 and set a career-high in batting average with .266 last year. He is one of the top young players in the game, and if he can strikeout less and continue to post triple-digit BB totals, then the sky is the limit. CF Ken Griffey, Jr. will once again (I've lost count of the seasons) try to make a comeback after suffering a season-ending injury in 2004. As everyone knows, if healthy, he is a Hall of Fame caliber outfielder. Austin Kearns and Wily Mo Pena will be left to fight for the right field spot. There has been talk of shifting Griffey to right to lessen the chance of injury, but regardless, the Reds have 4 qualified outfielders and only 3 spots. Wily Mo Pena (gotta love the name) hit 26 HR and drove in 66 runs last year in only 366 AB. Kearns has been excellent, when healthy, and is a great right-handed batter who can hit for average and power. Someone will be squeezed out, or a plattoon system will have to be implemented. Of course, an injury (Griffey? again) could open up a spot.
The Infield: Sean Casey is the heart and soul of this infield, and he is among the best first-baseman around. The Cub Killer hit .324, smacked 24 HR, and drove in 99 runs last year. Newly acquired third-baseman Joe Randa takes over at the hot corner. Randa is a solid competitor, but nothing spectacular. Expect 15 HR, 70 RBI, and about a .285 average from him. The middle infield is without Barry Larkin for the first time in almost two decades, and Felipe Lopez will be his successor. At 24, Lopez should be mature enough to provide solid production and defense from shortstop. To fill the second base hole, the Reds signed D'Angelo Jimenez, a speedy guy with decent pop in his bat. While this infield is nothing spectacular, offensively or defensively, it should be good enough to keep the Reds competitive.
Rotation: This offseason, Reds GM Dan O'Brien knew his top priority was pitching. Rather than fill out the rotation with youngsters and hope for the best, O'Brien signed lefty Eric Milton and traded for veteran right-hander Ramon Ortiz to complement staff ace Paul Wilson.
Wilson was solid for the Reds and finished 11-6, but his record could have been even better had the bullpen not blown 6 saves in his starts. Milton and Ortiz are both still in the prime of their careers and hope to help turn Cincinnati around. Ortiz averaged 15 wins from 2001-2003, but spent last year bouncing between the rotation and bullpen. With the Reds, Ortiz will be given stability and could easily return to his 2001-2003 success, despite last year's woes. Milton, a free agent from the Phillies, went 14-6 last year. His 4.75 ERA is a little troubling, but he still had success despite the high ERA. If he wants to make himself even better, he needs to cut down on home runs allowed (43 last year). Aaron Harang should be the fourth starter, and will look to build on last year, during which he led the team in strikeouts. The fifth spot is a toss-up between Luke Hudson, Brandon Claussen and Josh Hancock, and no one seems to have an edge over another. This rotation will be improved greatly from 2004, but don't expect a Cy Young from any one.
Bullpen: There is simply no denying it; the 2004 bullpen was awful. The only bullpen worse than the Reds' was the Rockies' pen, and we all know where the Rockies play. The pen progressively got worse as the season went on. To help rebuild the bullpen, the Reds signed free agents Kent Mercker, David Weathers and Ben Weber. Mercker is coming off a solid season with the Cubs, while Weathers and Weber are hoping to improve. Closer Danny Graves saved 41 games last year, but also blew 9. If the Reds can get the ball to Graves with a lead, it is very likely a win will result. While this pen will be improved, it will still give up a lot of runs and cost the Reds quite a few games.
Outlook: The Reds will have a record high payroll this season of over $63 million, but money does not always translate into wins. The key to success for Cincinnati is simply health. A healthy lineup and staff will allow the Reds to compete, rather than scramble to fill holes created by injuries. The Reds were in the NL Central race for over two months last year, but poor pitching and injuries cost them a shot at a winning record. While the 2005 team will be better, don't expect a playoff berth. A .500 record will be an accomplishment for this team. If all goes well, expect an 81-81 record from the 2005 Cincinnati Reds.
Saturday, March 05, 2005
Cubs 8, Giants 2
Ryan Dempster, a candidate for the closer job, pitched two brilliant innings, striking out 3 while yielding no walks or hits. Even though this was not a closing situation, Dempster showed his overwhelming stuff and capability. If he continues pitching like he did today, he should be an excellent choice to close.
On a more troubling note, the Cubs committed 4 errors today. However, all of the box scores I have seen do not list the players who committed the errors.
Former Cub Moises Alou didn't do much of anything for the Giants, finishing going hitless in two at-bats. In the first inning, Alou came to bat with the bases loaded and promptly lined into a double play. For some odd reason, fans at HoHoKam Park gave Alou quite an ovation when he came to bat. Personally, I'm glad he's gone. A clubhouse distraction with zero baserunning skills is not someone I would want on my team, and he's only going to get worse as he ages. Good riddance.
Next Up: Sunday, March 6 vs. Giants at Scottsdale, 2:05 pm CT, WGN Radio
Thursday, March 03, 2005
Cubs 2, Athletics 1
The Cubs won their spring-training opener today against the Oakland A's. A great performance by the Cubs, highlighted by an Aramis Ramirez two-run homer and two sharp innings by starter Carlos Zambrano. Ramirez hit a towering blast over the left-field wall in the 4th inning, after A's pitcher Joe Blanton hit SS Nomar Garciaparra on the hand. Ramirez is feeling good about 2005, and has confidence in the lineup. "We have a good hitting team," Ramirez said. "With all the hitters we have, I feel as if I don't have to carry the team." Zambrano pitched two scoreless innings, yielding 1 walk while striking out 1.
For the A's, starter Dan Haren pitched two shutout innings in his A's debut. Catcher Jason Kendal, acquired from the Pirates this offseason, knocked in the Athletics' only run in the 3rd inning on an RBI double, plating rookie Nick Swisher.
Overall, a good performance by both teams. Hopefully, as the spring progresses, the Cubs' bats will awaken and provide a bit more run support for the pitchers. Pitching for both teams was excellent, and 5 Cub pitchers held the A's to 4 hits, while the Cubs were held to 5 hits. No errors today, and this was a great spring opener. I hope this is a prelude to good things in the regular season.
Z's ready to go...are you?