Que Sarah, Sarah

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Sunday, June 08, 2008 - DErosa is DElicious

Sunday, June 08, 2008


DErosa is DElicious

Mark DeRosa went 3-for-5 with a solo homer and 2 rbi tonight to help the Cubs salvage a split with the Dodgers. The Northsiders have won 11 of their last 14 and continue to enjoy the best record in baseball. Sports Banker Dave K. and I discuss this season's surprises and what the Cubs have to do to hang on to the top spot...

http://www.thesportsbank.net/2008/06/08/inaugural-cubs-exchange/


Inaugural Cubs Exchange

By David K. & Sarah Spain
Not sure if you heard, but the Cubs have the best record in baseball. The team hasn't been on top this late in the season since 1908 and we all remember what happened that year…or at least we've heard. Seems like the perfect time for a Cubs e-mail exchange since Paul and the Soxman do a weekly exchange about that "other" Chicago baseball team.

Sarah, I think you'll agree with me that there have been plenty of surprises this season for the Cubs. Here are a few that stand-out to me:

1) The Cubs, usually known for the longball and massive amount of strike outs, lead MLB in runs, batting average, on-base percentage AND OPS. Plus, they're second in the bigs in walks; that's un-heard of for a team who calls Wrigley Field home.

2) Ryan Dempster's unbelievable transition from closer to starter. Through 12 starts, the artist formerly known as Ryan "Dumpster" is 7-2 with a 2.75 ERA and a 1.12 WHIP.

3) The consistency up-and-down the line-up. It really doesn't matter who Sweet Lou puts in to start on a daily basis, because there is no "easy" out. Even Hank White is tearing it up at the dish this year. Not to mention the amazing production from Ronny Cedeno and Geovanny Soto and the timely hitting of Reed Johnson and Jim Edmonds.
What is the most surprising thing you have seen this season with the Cubs?
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Great points, Dave. I distinctly remember the infamous quartet of Ryan "Dumpster," Michael "Worst," Will "OH…MAN" and Scott "Error." Thank god things are finally coming together…which brings me to my first surprise:

1) The Cubs bullpen is ranked third in the National League and has reduced its earned-run average to 3.22. While most pre-season bullpen reviews were positive, there were questions about Wood taking over the closer role and the pen's lack of lefties. The only question now is whether the starting rotation can get more innings in and keep the bullpen healthy and fresh. A bonus? I've watched 90% of this season's games for work (I've missed a few on my days off) and NOT ONCE has Carlos Marmol come into a game without being described by the words "nasty" or "filthy." Even opposing teams' announcers have to respect Marmol-aid. Gotta love it.

2) Geovany Soto. Soto had a stupendous minor league season last year, winning the Pacific Coast League MVP, but no one could have expected the kind of success he's had so far in the bigs. Soto is leading all catchers in NL All-Star voting and, if he maintains the top spot, would be the first NL rookie backstop ever to start at an All-Star game.

3) Speaking of rookie All-Stars, Kosuke Fukudome is another surprise for me. Despite the tremendous buzz surrounding his arrival in the States (not to mention the tremendous paycheck he's pocketing) I wasn't sure how the rookie outfielder would deal with the big move. After a disappointing Spring Training that saw him lead the league in walks but not a lot else, Fukudome was still a mystery to Chicago fans and media. It didn't take long for him to introduce himself; his Opening Day 3-run homer made him an immediate fan favorite. Fukudome trails only Alfonso Soriano in NL outfielder All-Star voting and could be the first NL rookie outfielder since 1948 to start the Midsummer Classic.

This Cubs team is certainly full of pleasant surprises–but the season is far from over. What do you think the team needs to improve upon in order to continue their league-leading ways and succeed well into October?

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To add one point to your Soto lovin', Sarah, how about the way he's handled the starting pitchers this season. For a rookie to have that much control and the trust of his starters is a pretty impressive feat. Plus, he's kept Carlos Zambrano somewhat sane which is a blessing in itself.

Barring any injuries or serious tanking, I love the depth of our line-up. With the Johnson/Edmonds platoon in center field, our 1-8 is solid as can be. Add in key bench guys like Fontenot, the versatile/speedy Cedeno, a solid back-up catcher in Blanco, and a pair of lefty bats in Daryle Ward and Micah Hoffpauir, and we seem to be set with our hitters/fielders. And how great is it to have a guy like Mark DeRosa? Not just because you think he is dreamy, but because his ability to play five or six different positions without missing a beat defensively is a luxury Sweet Lou must love having. Also, don't count out Felix Pie who could be a key contributor later in the season when the rosters expand –he may just have enough speed and defense skill to make the playoff squad.
Our bullpen has been solid. The Marmol/Wood combination has been consistent enough that nothing needs to be messed with in terms of our set-up man and closer roles. Middle relief has seen some pleasant surprises. Scott Eyre has been that effective situational lefty needed out of the pen since coming off the disabled list. Bob Howry has bounced back nicely after an awful start to the season and is a great 7th inning reliever when needed. Michael Wuertz is the perfect middle reliever and inning eater while other guys like Neal Cotts, Jose Ascanio, and Sean Marshall provide depth and flexibility. I think our bullpen will remain steady.

Starting pitching has been and still is my biggest area of concern. Big Z is having a Cy Young caliber season, but in my opinion, is Chicago's only reliable starter. Call me a pessimist, but I'm still not sold that Dempster can keep up his remarkable start to the season. I don't trust Ted Lilly and Jason Marquis and their five-plus ERA's at all. Sean Gallagher has pitched well enough to keep the final starting spot, but is he a guy you want on the mound in a pressure playoff situation? We still don't know if Rich Hill will bounce back and pitch his way into the Cubs rotation. With that said, Jim Hendry should try to add another solid starter for the stretch run. If it takes giving up a couple prospects, so be it. We all know how long it's been since a Cubs World Series, so you have to roll the dice and try to make a move later in the season to improve your chances.

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As I write this, the Cubs are just a few hours away from taking the field at Dodger Stadium to try to even up the series at 2 games apiece (and avoid dropping 3 straight for the first time all season). Unfortunately, the team that had us running out of positive adjectives now has me scratching my head. Carlos Zambrano fell apart on the mound and in the dugout Saturday, giving up 7 runs on 13 hits then unleashing his anger on a couple of Gatorade coolers. While his off day certainly puts a dent in your "reliable starter" theory, I've got to believe that Z will pull it together before his next start and continue his campaign for the Cy Young.

Zambrano's costly breakdown in the 7th inning Saturday dug a hole too big for the Cubs to get out of, but it's the errors, including a rare missed catch by Kosuke Fukudome, that concern me more. The Cubs' sloppy play and impatient hitting both Friday and Saturday were out of character for this team and need to be nipped in the bud before they become regular habits. Impatience and lack of focus seemed to be the cause of the team's slumping offense. All season, consistent hitting has allowed the Cubs to be aggressive on the base path. The team produced just 10 runs in their last two losses, making it difficult to put together big innings or play the kind of baseball that's put them on top.

After winning 9 straight, the team has dropped 3 of their last 4. Let's hope the losses were just the result of a brief letdown after the win streak was snapped. Despite their recent struggles, the Cubs are still tied for the best record in baseball, a stat I reminded every Dodger fan who tried to talk smack over the past few days. A big win tonight should get the Cubs back on track and silence the LA fans faster than you can say "sub .500 record."

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Wow Sarah, your pessimism is un-characteristic just like the Cubs play Friday and Saturday.

Yeah, I guess I jumped the gun on the whole "Carlos has been sane this season" comment. My bad. At least he's beating up Gatorade coolers though and not his battery mate. Before Sunday night's game, ESPN's Peter Gammons did say that Zambrano mentioned to him that Z needs to stop his immature temper tantrums. But as the saying goes, "actions speak louder than words."

And to quote the great Maury Ballstein, "What happens when you fall off the horse? You get back on." Cubs got a great outing from Jason Marquis Sunday night, and Mark DeRosa did enough offensively to secure a series split in L.A. So rest assured Sarah, Cubs fans are far from panic mode.

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