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Browsing posts from October, 2012

Cubs Cake, Yes Please!

By bullpenbrian - October 13, 2012 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

Is this an awesome cake or what! It came courtesy of my cousin Jenny who made this in celebration of my wife and I having tied the knot this past summer.

We caught up with Jenny and the extended family during the week, broke bread together, talked some baseball and enjoyed this wonderful cake, which tasted even better than it looked. No kidding.

Many thanks to Jenny and the fam (like 101-times over, if you catch my drift) for getting together to celebrate. It wasn’t often the Cubs put a smile on my face this season, but the cake certainly did. Thank you!

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Nats Season Should Be In Strasburg’s Hands

By bullpenbrian - October 12, 2012 - 2:45 am 2 comments.

I’ve never been in favor of shutting Stephen Strasburg down.

When you have the best team in the league (at least record wise) and one of the game’s best power-pitchers…you have a real shot at winning the World Series.

That opportunity doesn’t come around often, and when it does, I want my team to be all-in–not playing it safe as Washington is chosing to do.

If you think the Nats haven’t missed Strasburg this series, you’re kidding yourself. St. Louis embarrassed Washington in Games 2 & 3 outscoring them 20-4 while going 27-for-72 at the plate, including 8 doubles, 5 homers and a triple. Nats starters Jordan Zimmermann and Edwin Jackson were roughed up for a combined 9 earned runs on 15 hits.

Game 4 was a different story, if for one day, with the Cards managing just 1-run on 3-hits. But it was nearly good enough to knock off the Nats, who won by the slimmest of margins–2-1 on Jason Werth’s walkoff HR.

Strasburg, of course, may not have changed the series with a Game 1 start, but he easily could’ve given a second opportunity the likes of Matt Cain’s stellar outing vs. Cincinnati in Game 5, which was the difference maker in the Giants advancing to the NLCS…or Justin Verlander’s terrific outing vs. Oakland in Game 5, sending the Tigers to the ALCS.

Now, I’m not naive to the other side of the Strasburg discussion, or even suggesting it doesn’t make sense long-term. But if we’ve learned anything this October it’s that there are no guarantees in the postseason.

So while the Nationals starved off elimination for a day, there’s still no question they would be better positioned to win Game 5 with Strasburg on the bump facing the team who finished second in the NL in runs scored this season, and eager to bounce back after a lackluster performance yesterday.

Gio Gonzalez, who will start Game 5, is no pushover, but in fact, a formidable starter who won 21-games this season–but one who also walked 7 batters in 5 rather unimpressive innings in Game 1 of this series.

The bottom line is this: if the Nationals not only fail to advance later this evening, but also fail to win the World Series, they’ll forever have to live with the decision to shut down their best pitcher before the postseason.

Maybe sitting Strasburg pays off in the long run…maybe not. But that’s not a decision I’d be as comfortable with as Nats’ GM Mike Rizzo appears to be. And I say this simply because who’s to say you’ll ever be in this strong of a position to win the World Series again?

Great achievement is reached by taking great risks…and shutting down Strasburg could quickly become the Nationals’ greatest mistake.

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MLB Playoffs Best In Years

By bullpenbrian - October 12, 2012 - 2:15 am Leave a comment.

The baseball playoffs couldn’t be any better. Dramatic finishes, unlikely heroes and for the first time in Division Series play each series has gone 5-games.

Thank goodness the Nationals and Orioles won on Thursday. It can only get better if both teams win again today eliminating the Cardinals and Yankees.

Meanwhile, what a terrific and improbable comeback for the Giants. They win three-straight to become the first team in the National League to advance in the Division Series after trailing 0-2…and they sweep the Reds at Great American Ballpark to do it, no less.

Moneyball officially filed for bankruptcy, losing a decisive Game 5 to Detroit. It does little to diminish what became a surprising and thrilling season for the Athletics, who were hardly picked to have a winning season, let alone win the AL West.

Unfortunately, I was pulling for the A’s to make a deep run and even had them pegged to face the Reds in the World Series–a prediction that seemed very likely just days ago.

If all holds steady, however, we’re in for another wild round of nail-biting games this evening. I can hardly wait!

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Live Game Blog | Game 5 NLDS | Giants vs. Reds

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 1:23 pm Leave a comment.

What a terrific comeback by the Giants who become the first team in the National League to win the NLDS after losing the first 2-games of the series…not to mention, doing so in this one-year format where they had to play the last 3-games on the road. Outstanding.

Buster Posey’s fifth-inning grand slam made the difference as part of a 6-run inning against Reds starter Matt Latos. Cincinnati had plenty of chances, including having the game-tying runs at the plate in four consecutive innings. It was too little, too late from the Reds who could never finish off the Giants after leaving the bay up 2-0.

“The Reds did not lose this series, the Giants won it.” -Ron Darling TBS

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Cubs MVP 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 1:15 am Leave a comment.

-Alfonso Soriano: .262/.322/.499, .821 OPS.

Say what you will about Sori, but this was his best all-around season with Chicago. Despite a nagging knee injury, Soriano played in 151-games, hit 32 HR and drove in a career-high 108 RBI, leading the club in both categories, with little protection in the lineup.

He may not win the Gold Glove, but his fielding was the best it’s ever been and the guy earned every penny of his contract setting a positive example for the youthful Cubs both on and off the field.

Now it’s a matter of whether or not the Cubs should trade him this offseason? If so, how do the Cubs replace Soriano’s offensive production, or is it best to keep him for another season?

Honorable mentions: Darwin Barney (clutch fielding, leadership), David DeJesus (gamer, leadership), Anthony Rizzo (sparked lineup, solid defense), Shawn Camp (because Sveum says so!).

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Cubs Best Starter 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 12:45 am Leave a comment.

-Jeff Samardzija: (9-13, 3.81). Pitching far better than his record indicates, Shark led the team in starts (28), innings pitched (174.2) and strikeouts (180).

Had it not been for the club’s decision to cut Samardzija’s season short in September it’s likely he would’ve finished the 2012 campaign with 30-starts, close to 200.0 innings pitched and double-digit wins.

In his first full season starting, however, the soon-to-be 28-year-old proved he can be a reliable top-of-the-rotation arm entering his sixth season with Chicago.

Honorable mentions: Matt Garza (5-7, 3.91) and the departed…Ryan Dempster (5-5, 2.25) in 16-starts, Paul Maholm (9-6, 3.74) in 20-starts.

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Cubs Best Reliever 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 12:30 am Leave a comment.

-James Russell: (7-1, 3.25). Easily the most reliable arm in the bullpen. The 26-year-old southpaw allowed just 5 HR in nearly 70 innings pitched (69.1) and was second in strikeouts (55) only to Carlos Marmol’s 72 and games (77) to Shawn Camp’s league leading 80-appearances.

He set career-highs in appearances (77), innings pitched (69.1), strikeouts (55), home runs allowed (5) and hit batters (1). His ERA+ was a solid 21-points above the league average.

Russell is one of the few, if only, bright spots for the Cubs’ bullpen heading into 2013. It took Sean Marshall a few seasons to become one of the best left-handed relievers in the National League, and Russell appears to be headed down the same path entering his fourth season.

Honorable mentions: Shawn Camp (3-6, 3.59) league-leading 80-appearances, led Cubs relievers in innings pitched (77.2), third in strikeouts (54) and WHIP (1.29). Michael Bowden (0-0, 2.95) fourth in strikeouts (29) second in WHIP (1.25).

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Cubs Best Fielder 2012

By bullpenbrian - October 11, 2012 - 12:10 am Leave a comment.

-Darwin Barney: A no-brainer. Set the NL record and tied the major league record for most consecutive games at 2B without a fielding error (141).

And despite the consecutive-games errorless streak, Barney continued to show solid range, dive after balls and make difficult throws from his position.

He started the second most games (146), turned the second most double plays (96) and his two miscues were the fewest of any regular starting second baseman in the National League.

It’s a crime if Barney doesn’t win the Gold Glove. And no, I don’t think the Cubs should trade Darwin this offseason…see above. Honorable mentions: Alfonso Soriano (12 assists, 1 error, .996), David DeJesus (8 assists, 2 errors, .993), Reed Johnson (3 assists, 1 error, .987).

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Cubs 2012 Unsung Hero

By bullpenbrian - October 10, 2012 - 12:35 pm 2 comments.

-David DeJesus: .262/.350/.403, .753 OPS.

All-around professional, quality at-bats, terrific defense, durable, team leader.

He’s been the Cubs’ best leadoff man since Juan Pierre in 2006 while leading the team in OBP (.350), finished second in triples (8), third in doubles (28) and fourth in hits (133).

There’s not a better player for the youthful Cubs players to look up to than DeJesus. He plays the game the right way–every day. It’s a blessing the 33-year-old returns for a second season on the North Side, even if he only lasts to the July 31 trade deadline next year.

Honorable mention: Shawn Camp (3-6, 3.59), 77.2 IP, 1.29 WHIP and tied for league lead with 80 appearances.

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Cubs’ Most Improved Player

By bullpenbrian - October 10, 2012 - 12:10 pm 2 comments.

-Anthony Rizzo 2012: .285/.342/.463, .805 OPS.

After an underwhelming debut with San Diego in 2011 (.141, 1 HR, 9 RBI) Rizzo revamped his swing at Triple-A Iowa to become a legit hitting threat for the Cubs upon his arrival in late June.

In just over half a season (87-games) Rizzo hit 15 HR and drove in 48 RBI. In addition to his power, he also hit for average, against left-handers (4 HR, 17 RBI) and in the clutch with a sparkling .338 average with RISP. He finished second only to Soriano in game-winning RBI and held down the No.3 spot in the order from day one.

All signs indicate Rizzo will be a fixture at first base for years to come, a perennial All Star and a key figure in the Cubs’ rebuilding plans.

Perhaps the only thing more exciting than Rizzo’s improvement from Year 1 to Year 2 is how much better he could become next season.

Honorable mention: Alfonso Soriano 32 HR, career-high 108 RBI, best defensive season of his career.

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