It’s been an up and down season offensively for Geovany Soto. But the catcher has steadily improved since returning from a strained groin and trip to the DL in mid-May.
Soto’s hit so well as of late Mike Quade inserted him into the cleanup spot Tuesday night in Milwaukee. He went 1-for-4.
Since his DL return, Soto is batting .258 with 6 HR and 15 RBI. But the real progress has come during the last week with Soto hitting .333, including a 12-for-33 mark during the recent homestand.
However, as I’ve said before, Soto’s true value, as with any catcher, isn’t his offensive numbers. It’s what he does behind the plate for the Cubs’ pitching staff…a thinned-out rotation that posted seven quality starts over the 10-game homestand.
The 28-year-old backstop is doing a fine job calling games, blocking pitches in the dirt and gunning down nearly 30-percent of would-be base stealers. None of which can be overlooked.
Soto’s been a model of progress since his off the field troubles two years ago and a guy I hope the Cubs hang onto for years to come. Whatever comes of Soto offensively is simply icing on the cake.
All About Aramis
Aramis leads the Cubs with 9 HR and 22 RBI this month, which is also the most home runs this month in the majors.
In addition, Ramirez leads MLB with 9 HR coming on the first-pitch, including his first inning 2-R blast Tuesday night in Milwaukee.
That’s the most first-pitch home runs for a Cubs since Derrek Lee clubbed 11 in 2009.
The Cubs are 15-25 against the N.L. Central. That ties for the second-most losses against a team’s own division with Baltimore, Colorado and Kansas City.
-“If the Cubs put Garza on the market, they wouldn’t get what the Rays got,” said one GM on Monday. Sam Fuld has really helped. Nineteen-year old shortstop Hak-Ju Lee is hitting .324 with an .822 OPS in the Florida State League, and one scout who watched him recently says “he has a chance to be a star.”
Outfielder Brandon Guyer is hitting .305 with an .875 OPS in the International League, has already hit one homer for the Rays and plays hard all the time. Fireballing right-hander Chris Archer has had an inconsistent Double-A season, but throws 92 to 95 mph with a 90-mph slider and likely will be an important player by 2013, possibly at the end of games.
-Brewers infielder cherishes time with son who has cerebral palsy.
-Yankees activated 3B Eric Chavez from the 60-Day disabled list.
-Orioles activated DH Vladimir Guerrero from the 15-Day disabled list.
-Tigers outrighted 3B Brandon Inge to Toledo Mud Hens.
-Reds recalled Yonder Alonso from Louisville Bats.
It only seems fitting the Cubs would defeat Roy Halladay with Rodrigo Lopez. Then again, maybe we’re giving the Cubs too much credit?
The heat index at Wrigley Field Monday night was near 100-degrees–a wave of warmth strong enough to slay one of the game’s fittest players in Halladay.
But the Cubs’ 35-year-old right-hander didn’t seem to mind the blaze. He strung together his third straight quality start while improving to (2-2) with a 3.35 ERA.
We haven’t had many opportunities to tip our cap to the Cubs this season…but Monday they took advantage of an ace off his game and beat a good Phillies team to boot. Pat on the back, especially for Lopez.
And now with Halladay out of the way, the Cubs can concentrate on Cliff Lee. Whoa buddy!
Failing to reach six innings pitched ended Halladay’s string of 63 road starts in which he’s lasted at least six innings. That had marked the longest such streak since Walter Johnson went 82 straight road starts from 1911-15.
What’s Up Doc?
Halladay is (0-3) lifetime at Wrigley Field, just one of six stadiums he’s failed to win a game at throughout his 14-year career.
-New Busch 0-1
“Right now, I’m not interested in a trade,” Aramis Ramirez
Aramis says family obligations will keep him from waiving his no-trade clause. A classic line we’ve heard numerous times, genuine or not.
Thing is, I actually believe Ramirez. And, he has every right to take his family’s well being into consideration. But that won’t stop contenders from trying to woo him away…or the Cubs from trying to deal him.
Aramis may avoid the stress of a deadline deal, but given his offensive tear as of late…Hendry’s sure to make Aramis feel unwelcomed in Chicago by August. Dealing Ramirez will simply bring the Cubs too much in return.
Likewise, too many contenders need this guy for trade talks to vanish. And enough button pushing by Hendry may have Ramirez’s family reconsidering his guaranteed $16M option if dealt.
My guess says Aramis will have a change of heart.
Cubs radio broadcaster, Keith Moreland, played his first four big league seasons with Philadelphia from 1978-81.
He hit .291 with 10 HR & 74 RBI before being dealt to the Cubs on Dec 8, 1981 with Dan Larson and Dickie Noles for Mike Krukow and cash.
Moreland played six seasons with the Cubs hitting .281, 100 HR & 491 RBI.
It’s good knowing the Cubs have company. Cincinnati is (1-6) vs. Pittsburgh this season after dropping Monday’s contest 2-0, sending the surprise Pirates back into first place in the NL Central.
Dontrelle Willis (0-1) made his second start for the Reds and lasted 4.2 innings. He allowed just 2 runs on 5 hits but suffered the loss.
Willis is just 29-years-old, but has not won more than two games since 2007 with the Marlins.
Another one-run loss for the Cubs, and another bomb for Aramis.
Ramirez, last week named the NL Player of the Week, remains one of the hottest hitters in baseball.
His 14th HR of the season wasn’t enough offense Wednesday night, but the slugger has virtually carried the Cubs’ lineup during the past two weeks.
Over his last 14 games…he’s batting .375 with an MLB-best nine home runs, including three doubles, 15 RBI & 16 runs scored.
His 1.381 OPS during the run is only second to the Rockies’ Carlos Gonzalez.
Meanwhile, Aramis’ power surge has him on course to reach his career-best 17 HR before the A.S. break, set in 2008.
Lord knows the NL could use a hot bat in the Mid Summer Classic. Any reason Ramirez shouldn’t be a 2011 NL All Star?
Aramis Ramirez’s trade value is skyrocketing.
Mr. Clutch has made a dramatic comeback from his disappearing act through the first two months of the season.
His game-tying home run Thursday off Giants’ closer Brian Wilson, who had not allowed a HR in his last 44 outings, comes on the heels of his game-winning walk-off hit Wednesday night!
That gives Aramis 8 HR and 19 RBI in his last 23 games. A June turn-a-round which also includes a .296 average this month. And history warns us the third baseman is just warming up.
Aramis Ramirez had one his best at-bats of the season Saturday night–albeit an eighth inning walk to load the bases.
His 11 pitch battle against Matt Albers helped turn a close game into a rout. And Ramirez looked a lot like his old self again: a focused hitter thriving under the greatest pressure.
I’ve said many times Aramis was my MVP pick for the Cubs’ division winning teams in 2007-08. He came up big time-and-time again, in all sorts of situations, but especially the clutch.
I saw ‘that’ Ramirez again Sat. night. And should the old Aramis stick around to be the club’s MVP in 2011, Chicago will keep its slim chance at the division.
However, it’s going to be one heavy load for the ageing star. We know this club is nowhere near as talented as the winners from just a few seasons ago.
But if any one player can shoulder it, thrive with it, and keep this team relevant, even for a few more months, it’s No.16.
Thanks to the hot hitting of Starlin Castro, Darwin Barney & Alfonso Soriano, Aramis Ramirez’s return to form is flying under the radar.
Having been hampered by injuries the previous two seasons, the uncertainty of Aramis’ production on offense was a huge unknown heading into 2011.
But after 16 games, it appears Aramis is fully healthy and capable of leading this club on offense. And that’s a huge, huge relief.
Say what you will about his defense, but we know Ramirez’s bat is invaluable to the Cubs’ success.
There’s not a better clutch hitter on the team, not even the budding star Castro. And when Aramis is clicking at the plate, so is the Cubs offense.
-Aramis has reached base safely in all 16 starts.
-He hit .361 on the recent road trip.
-Which included 6 RBI, four 2B & 3 multi-hit efforts.
-Has just three strikeouts in 67 plate appearances.
-Batting .347 vs. right-handers, .286 vs. lefties.
Played one season with the Cubs hitting 1 HR and driving in 7 RBI.
He was released after 75 games in Chicago and signed with Florida.
Was the last Cub to play 3B before the arrival of Aramis Ramirez.
At age 37 he hit .305 in 122 games with Milwaukee.
Holds the MLB record for most career pinch-hits.
Name that Cub!
Batting .290 since the All Star break.
That’s 80-points higher than his first half.
Has 16 HR and 47 RBI in his last 51 games.
Earned NL Player of the Week honors (July 25).
Has 31 two-out RBI and one seven RBI game.
Is 6-for-19 on the homestand–2 HR, 4 runs scored & 8 RBI.
Name that Cub!
There’s not a more important bat in the Cubs’ lineup than Aramis’.
He’s the best clutch hitter on the team, a proven RBI-man, a guy opponents pitch around.
No surprise, obviously, the Cubs suffered offensively while Aramis
slumped through the first half of the season batting below .200.
Lately, however, Aramis has found his old self at the plate.
He hit .429 during the recent seven-game road trip, including four
home runs and nine-RBI. He drove in four more runs in the Cubs 12-6 win
against Philly Thursday night.
If Aramis stays true to form, we’re looking at a different Cubs
offense than what we saw the first three months of the season.
It’s probably too little too late. But without Aramis’ bat,
our Cubbies have no chance at all!
How is it the Cubs have four regulars batting above .300 but can’t score enough runs to win a ballgame?
Theriot, Fukudome, Byrd & Soriano all rank in the top-11 for batting average in the NL…but the offense remains terribly inconsistently.
That falls on the shoulders of D-Lee (.210) and Aramis (.160), the club’s two biggest run producers…whose collective slump essentially has the Cubs playing without a three & four hitter…and, of course, it shows with a record four games below .500.
I’m not giving up on either one, but isn’t it about time Lou moves Lee from the three-hole and Aramis down to sixth…like permanently…at least until these guys come around with some plate consistency?
What else needs to sour before significant changes come to this lineup? Is a 1-5 road trip through Pittsburgh and Cincy not enough to signal the panic alarm?