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Browsing posts from October, 2012

Bryan LaHair: All Star To Bench Warmer

By bullpenbrian - October 10, 2012 - 11:50 am 2 comments.

There were obviously a ton of disappointments this season. Bryan LaHair, unfortunately, may have been the biggest of them all.

If we didn’t have high hopes for LaHair when he broke spring camp as the starting first baseman, we certainly did after he hit .308/.396/.582, .979 OPS after the first two months of the season.

Despite his hot start, most fans, including myself, remained curious if LaHair could consistently hit for an entire season. Ultimately, he proved he could not.

Although LaHair earned a somewhat surprising selection to the Mid-Summer Classic, it quickly became a tale of two season afterwards.

LaHair hit–.286, 14 HR, 30 RBI before the All Star break…and .202, 2 HR, 10 RBI thereafter. He went from starter to role player…and eventually to bench warmer come August.

Whether or not the arrival of Anthony Rizzo negatively effected LaHair offensively, I don’t know. But I still suspect it did as LaHair’s transition from first base to right field coincided with his decline at the plate.

What’s certain is the league’s pitching adjusted quicker to LaHair than he could counter back. Additionally, his inability to hit left-handers (.063) and overall sharp decline offensively leaves LaHair hanging in the balance of the Cubs’ plans this offseason.

Can LaHair retool his plate approach again this winter? Is it worth keeping his left-handed swing as a pinch-hitting threat…or is it time to move on from LaHair?

If the Cubs can trade LaHair I suspect they will. Otherwise, due to the lack of overall talent on the roster, he may get one more shot next spring…with better results, I hope.

Honorable mention: Ian Stewart .201, 5 HR, 17 RBI, 55-games.

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Cubs Manager & Coaching Grades

By bullpenbrian - October 9, 2012 - 11:00 am Leave a comment.

-Dale Sveum: (B-): No good Cubs fan blames the first year manager for 101-losses. And had it not been for Sveum’s strong leadership, it’s probably an even worse record.

Remember, this Cubs team could’ve mailed it in on several occasions…a 12-game losing streak, the trade of veterans at the deadline or the horrific beating by the Nationals in Washington, just to name a few. They never did, and that’s about the most encouraging sign for this team, and its manager, moving forward.

That’s not to say Sveum isn’t without fault, he certainly made his share of mistakes, too. But given the youth, inexperience, and at times, inexplicable bone-headed plays from his players, Sveum handled it all with poise and professionalism. There couldn’t be a better quality for a manager skippering a team on the rebuild.

-Dave McKay (A+): He proved to be one of the best acquisitions last offseason. His instruction responsible for Soriano’s improved defense was invaluable on its own, as was his coaching of base runners at first. The Cubs are very lucky to have this guy.

-Chris Bosio (B): His arrival was a first step in the right direction for the pitching staff. The starters thrived before the All Star break and the deadline departures of Ryan Dempster and Paul Maholm. More importantly, Bosio finely tuned Jeff Samardzija into a quality starter, oversaw the redevelopment of Manny Corpas, straightened out Carlos Marmol and survived the task of coaching a bullpen largely void of major league talent. Next season will test Bosio’s mettle even more, but it’s promising to think what he could actually do with an entire staff of major league quality talent.

-James Rowson (incomplete): Will he stay, will he go? We do know Rowson buys into the new regime’s patient plate philosophy, and it seemed the Cubs took kindly to Rowson after he replaced Rudy Jaramillo mid-season. You obviously can’t fault Rowson for the Cubs’ lackluster offensive production, but there’s a ton of work to be done between now and the end of spring training…and not much to work with. I imagine he won’t have the long leash Jaramillo did either.

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NL Regular Season Awards Ballot

By bullpenbrian - October 8, 2012 - 10:45 pm Leave a comment.

Here’s my regular season awards ballot for the Baseball Bloggers Alliance. As a member of the Cubs chapter I have a vote for the National League awards.

Below I’ve listed my selections and the date at which the awards will be announced by the BBA. Agree or disagree? Let me know!

October 15: Connie Mack Award (manager of the year)

-Davey Johnson, Washington Nationals: Many thought the Nationals would play above .500. Some even felt the Nats had an outside shot at contending. But no one figured Washington would win the most games in the majors (98). Not to mention, if Davey Johnson wasn’t already a HOF manager, having led his fourth different organization to the postseason makes him a lock for Cooperstown. Honorable mentions: Bruce Bochy, Giants – Dusty Baker, Reds – Ozzie Guillen, Marlins (JK!)

October 16: Willie Mays Award (rookie of the year)

-Todd Frazier, Cincinnati Reds: .270/.331/.498, .817 OPS. Frazier doesn’t lead any offensive categories among rookies. He didn’t play in the most games or receive the most national attention. But none of that keeps him from being the best rookie ballplayer in the National League. He played a huge role for Dusty Baker by filling in for long stretches for an injured Scott Rolen and later an injured Joey Votto. He played solid defense at multiple positions. He hit well enough to bat from the middle of the lineup. And while Frazier may not lead any one particular category offensively, he is near the top in just about all of them for rookies. He’s definitely not the flashy pick of a Bryce Harper, but he is the best rookie for my money. Honorable mentions: Wade Miley, Diamondbacks – Bryce Harper, Nationals – Wilson Rosario, Rockies.

October 17: Goose Gossage Award (top reliever)

-Craig Kimbrel, Atlanta Braves: (3-1, 1.01 ERA) 42/45 saves. Seven earned runs allowed in 62.2 innings, including 116 strikeouts. Three home runs allowed and a .126 average against. A 0.65 WHIP. These are just ridiculous numbers. Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman is a close second despite pitching 10 more innings than Kimbrel. But Atlanta’s fireballer allowed half the number of runs and walks than Chapman did closing for the Reds. Honorable mentions: Chapman, Reds – Jonathan Papelbon, Phillies – Tyler Clippard, Nationals.

October 18: Walter Johnson Award (Cy Young)

-RA Dickey, New York Mets: (20-6, 2.67 ERA). Dickey pitched the most innings (232.2) with the most strikeouts (230) and tied for the most starts (33) of any NL starter. He won 20-games on a (74-88) Mets team. Good enough for me. Honorable mentions: Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers – Johnny Cueto, Reds – Matt Cain, Giants.

October 19: Stan Musial Award (MVP)

-Buster Posey, San Francisco Giants: .336/.408/.549, .957 OPS. Posey carried the Giants to the postseason in the wake of Melky Carbrera’s PEDs suspension by winning the batting title and sporting a sparkling .957 OPS, second only to cheater Ryan Braun’s .987 OPS, while playing in 114-games at the most demanding position. Honorable mentions: Andrew McCutchen, Pirates – Yadier Molina, Cardinals – David Wright, Mets – Aramis Ramirez, Brewers.

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Mr. Cubs Race!

By bullpenbrian - October 7, 2012 - 9:05 am Leave a comment.

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On Behalf Of The NL, Another Gift For the Cardinals

By bullpenbrian - October 6, 2012 - 3:20 am 2 comments.

Do you know what the Phillies, Brewers & Braves all have in common? They each rolled over and died in the NL playoffs against the Cardinals. For good measure we can add the Rangers from last year’s World Series, too.

I suppose at some point I’ve got to give the Cardinals credit, which I begrudgingly did after St. Louis won the championship last year. But for goodness sake, why is it teams forget how to pitch effectively, field the ball and hit in the clutch against the Cards?

Is St. Louis really that much better of a club than its opponents, or is the opposition simply giving games away the way I believe they are?

Let’s go back to last October…

Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt & Roy Halladay allow a combined 14-earned runs against St. Louis in the NLDS. In the decisive Game 5 Philadelphia committed more errors (2) than runs scored (0) finishing off its pathetic series (1-2) at home and essentially put a clown nose on its 102-win regular season.

The Brewers were then outscored by 17 total runs in the 6-game NLCS series while committing an unheard of 9 errors…NINE! And despite the most home wins in the majors during the regular season (57), Milwaukee went just (1-2) at Miller Park in the series.

In the Fall Classic the Cardinals outscored the Rangers by 8-runs, thanks in large part to a 16-7 drubbing in Game 3 at Texas. But the Rangers then blew a 3-run lead after 7 innings and a 2-run lead in the top of the 10th in Game 6.

In fact, the Cards were down to its final strike before David Freese delivered his game-tying triple in the bottom of the 9th…and then a game-winning walkoff home run in the bottom of the 11th. And to make matters worse, Texas made 8 fielding errors in the 7-game series…EIGHT!

And what did we see Friday in Atlanta? The Braves, with the highest fielding percentage in the league, committed 3 errors leading to 3 unearned runs in a 6-3 loss.

The Braves also had not lost behind its starting pitcher, Chris Medlen, in his last 23-starts–the longest such streak in modern baseball history! Not only that, but the Braves also had home field advantage in the 1-game play-in but still blew it.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not fuming over the Cards’ performance. Heck, I wish the Cubs were half the opportunist St. Louis has been in the postseason. But what the heck’s going on with the rest of the Senior Circuit?

Is it just my personal dislike for the Cardinals that’s preventing me from validating St. Louis’ October success…or am I not the only one who’s ticked the rest of the National League is pulling a choke job worthy of the Cubs’ approval?

Heaven help me if the Nationals fall in line with the rest of the NL when it comes to finishing off the Cardinals. But quite honestly, I wouldn’t be surprised if they do…everyone else seemingly has.

Maybe St. Louis is just that good…or maybe not? Either way, I just wish somebody would make the Cardinals earn a postseason series instead of giving it away. At least then I could live with it.

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Infield Fly Changed Game, But Not Outcome For Braves

By bullpenbrian - October 6, 2012 - 2:59 am Leave a comment.

The infield fly call was a bad one, and I don’t care if it was technically the right call within the rules.

It’s a judgment call by the umpire…and his judgment was off, which is evident in the replay. The umpire’s call came too late to begin with, and unfortunately, killed what could have been a game-changing rally for Atlanta.

But it’s hardly the reason the Braves lost the game. Three fielding errors led to three unearned runs…and the Braves lost by those three unearned runs 6-3. That can’t happen in the postseason, especially when you’re statistically the best fielding team in the league, as the Braves are.

“Ultimately I think that when we look back on this loss, we need to look at ourselves in the mirror,”… “We put ourselves in that predicament, down 6-2. You know, that call right there is kind of a gray area. I don’t know. But I’m not willing to say that that particular call cost us the ballgame. Ultimately, three errors cost us the ballgame, mine probably being the biggest.” –Chipper Jones

And let’s not forget the Braves were the beneficiary of a late timeout call at the plate in the second inning, one which gave David Ross another cut…the result of which landed the next pitch in the bleachers for an early 2-0 lead.

That particular bad call actually changed the game on the scoreboard, whereas the blown infield fly ruling did not.

The Braves, not the umpires, decided the outcome of this game, and per the usual, the Cardinals were happy to take advantage.

However, hats off to Fredi Gonzalez for handling the loss with class. He didn’t gripe or complain (at least from what I heard) but simply shouldered the blame for his team’s poor fielding.

I can only hope Davey Johnson won’t have to do the same following the NLDS.

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#Cubs Tweet Tweet!

By bullpenbrian - October 6, 2012 - 2:30 am Leave a comment.

Cubs Wish | Cardinals Loss

By bullpenbrian - October 5, 2012 - 4:57 pm Leave a comment.

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My Season At Wrigley Field

By bullpenbrian - October 5, 2012 - 5:05 am Leave a comment.

I enjoy every opportunity I get to watch the Cubs play at Wrigley Field, even when the team stinks.

And even though the Cubs finished the season with 101-losses, I was fortunate enough to see them go (16-14) at home in the games I attended.

Below I’ve listed a quick note about each of those 30-games…the good, the bad and all else I witnessed this season at Wrigley Field.

  • Opening Day: Steven Strasburg. Phenom.
  • April 9 – MIL: Aramis’ return to Wrigley, Bryan LaHair’s HR onto Sheffield Avenue.
  • April 12 – MIL: Garza loses his chance at a complete-game when he throws a comebacker over LaHair’s head and into the stands with 2-outs in the top of the ninth.
  • April 21 -CIN: Paul Maholm’s first win as a Cub, Marlon Byrd traded to Boston for Michael Bowden.
  • May 6 – LAD: 2hr 41min rain delay, Travis Wood’s first start as a Cub, DeJesus’ walkoff hit in the bottom of the 11th.
  • May 7 – ATL: Samardzija 7.0, 1-ER, 7-K, LaHair and Ian Stewart hit back-to-back home runs. A heavy fog blankets the field in the late innings.
  • May 9 – ATL: Maholm, James Russell and Rafael Dolis shutout the Braves 1-0.
  • May 16 – PHI: Matt Garza struggles to field Juan Pierre’s two bunts.
  • May 28 – SD: Cubs snap its 12-game losing streak, eight combined HRs (4 each), Alex Hinshaw takes the loss for Padres.
  • May 29 – SD: Jeff Samardzija picks up his 5th win on his bobble head day, Sveum calls Shawn Camp the team’s MVP.
  • May 30 – SD: Darwin Barney hits a 2-R, walkoff home run in the bottom of the ninth. Cubs sweep the series.
  • June 25 – NYM: I see one of my favorite players in the flesh for the first time: Johan Santana. Travis Wood outduels the former Cy Young Award winner.
  • June 27 – NYM: With the wind blowing out the Mets score 17-runs, including hitting for the cycle in HRs. The Cubs plate one run. My first look in the flesh at Anthony Rizzo.
  • July 1 – HOU: It’s announced before the game Starlin Castro and Bryan LaHair have been selected a NL All Stars.
  • July 17 – MIA: Ozzie and Big Z’s return to Wrigley Field.
  • July 27 – STL: I watch from a rooftop. Cardinals become the first team in eight years to hit a HR in each of the first five innings.
  • July 30 – PIT: Cubs win scoring a season-high 14-runs.
  • July 31 – PIT: Adrian Cardenas breaks up AJ Burnett’s no-hitter with 2 outs in the bottom of the 8th continuing the Cubs’ major league record of avoiding being no-hit since Sept. of 1965 when Sandy Koufax turned the trick.
  • Aug 9 – CIN: Soriano cracks an eventual game-winning 2-R HR in the bottom of the 8th.
  • Aug 11 – CIN: It’s my first look in the flesh at the Cuban Missile Aroldis Chapman. He strikes out the side for his 27th consecutive save while reaching 102mph on the radar gun.
  • Aug 13 – HOU: Samardzija strikes out a career-high 11 batters in 7.0 innings.
  • Aug 29 – MIL: A throwing error charged to Darwin Barney is reversed enabling him to extend his record of consecutive games at 2B without an error. Barney’s streak reaches 114-games.
  • Aug 30 – MIL: Ryan Braun hits a HR off the camera housing in CF, the Cubs rally to score three-runs in the bottom of the ninth in a wild 12-11 win.
  • Aug 31 – SF: Chris Volstad outduels Madison Bumgarner, wha?
  • Sept 14 – PIT: Starlin hits a 3-R HR, Chris Rusin earns his first big league victory.
  • Sept 17 – PIT: My personal highlight of the season. I throw out the ceremonial first pitch after a 3hr 30min rain delay. It’s the latest first pitch ever in Wrigley Field’s history. AT 10:42pm Travis Wood tosses the game’s first pitch.
  • Sept 18 – CIN: Darwin Barney stretches his errorless streak at 2B to an NL record 133-straight games.Bullpen Brian
  • Sept 23 – STL: Kerry Wood Appreciation Day, Soriano hits his 31st HR of the season giving him a career-high 105 RBI.
  • Oct 1 – HOU: The Cubs lose its 100th game of the season.
  • Oct 2 – HOU: Chicago is shutout against the major’s worst team for a second consecutive ballgame. Ugh.
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Ryne Sandberg Back In The Bigs

By bullpenbrian - October 5, 2012 - 4:15 am Leave a comment.

Congrats to Ryne Sandberg for being named the new third base coach of the Philadelphia Phillies.

It’s been frustrating watching Sandberg get passed over time and time again for a big league coaching position.

However, his latest promotion from Triple-A Lehigh Valley appears to have positioned Ryno to take over the reins for incumbent manager Charlie Manuel, whose contract expires after next season.

I’m probably getting ahead of myself, but I wouldn’t be surprised if Sandberg replaces Manuel even earlier if the Phillies struggle out of the gate in 2013.

Here’s wishing Ryno all the best, except when the Phillies face the Cubs, of course!

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