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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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Ryan Dempster, Paul Maholm Update

By bullpenbrian - September 27, 2012 - 3:15 am Leave a comment.

Ryan Dempster allowed 16-earned runs in his first 17.1 innings with the Rangers. Since then, however, he’s won six of his last seven starts improving to (7-2) with a 4.48 ERA with Texas.

In 10 starts with the Rangers Dempster’s allowed two or fewer earned-runs six times. He’s also pitched into the sixth-inning six times, reaching seven-innings once, and once more in an eight-inning effort. Only twice has he failed to reach the six-innings mark (4.3 & 3.1).

Including 16 starts with the Cubs this season, Dempster is (12-7) overall with a 3.07 ERA. He’s scheduled for two more regular season starts–at home against the Angels on Friday and at Oakland next Wednesday in the season finale.

Bottom Line: Dempster hasn’t dominated AL lineups the way he had in the NL, which was expected, but all things considered he’s been as good as advertised since Texas acquired him at the trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM: The former Cubs lefty evened his record with the Braves to (4-4) after tossing 6.2 shutout innings in a 3-0 win vs. Miami last night.

In 10 starts with Atlanta Maholm has allowed two or fewer earned-runs six times. He’s pitched six or more innings seven times, three times managed at least seven-innings and recorded one complete-game shutout.

Including his 20-starts with the Cubs this season, Maholm is (13-10) overall with a 3.71 ERA. His win-total is a career-high surpassing his 10-win season with Pittsburgh in 2007. He can be expected to make one final start this regular season coming at Pittsburgh on Monday.

Bottom Line: Maholm has pitched better than his record in Atlanta while adding solid rotation depth for the Braves’ postseason run. It’s turned out to be a career-year for the southpaw.

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Paul Maholm Update

By bullpenbrian - August 29, 2012 - 4:30 pm Leave a comment.

Wins haven’t come any easier for Paul Maholm since he joined Atlanta. Similar to his Cubs tenure, the lefty’s been short on run support with the Braves plating just 2.6 runs behind him.

But that hasn’t stopped Maholm (2-3) from achieving a quality outing in four of his five starts, including a superb 2.45 ERA and a complete game shutout against the Mets on August 10.

Maholm has, however, been plagued by the long-ball, which has accounted for all 10 earned-runs against him. He’s served up six home runs with Atlanta: a stark contrast to the three home runs he issued over his final 12 starts with Chicago.

A CAREER YEAR FOR PREACHER PAUL

Maholm’s 11-wins this season are already a career-high (10), and it’s possible he could end the season with anywhere from 13-15 victories despite the lack of run support–an impressive improvement for a guy who entered the season with a career record 20-games below .500 (53-73).

Numbers aside, the best change for Maholm has been his place in the standings. For the first time in his career he’s in the thick of the postseason race with the Braves (74-56) who lead the NL wild card race and trail the division leading Nats by only 4.0 games.

So it seems Maholm will get his first taste of postseason baseball this October joining Tim Hudson and Tommy Hanson as the top three starters in Atlanta’s rotation.

Late comer, Ben Sheets (4-4, 3.54) could challenge Maholm for the coveted third spot in the rotation. But he’s since fallen back to earth after beginning his comeback (4-1) by losing his last three games.

As disappointing as it was to see Maholm depart Chicago via trade, the returns were strong and much needed for the Cubs rebuilding efforts. Not to mention, I couldn’t be more pleased for a guy whose professionalism alone has always been deserving of a chance to play for a ring.

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Who Did Cubs Get In Return For Trades?

By bullpenbrian - August 2, 2012 - 1:30 am Leave a comment.

This is a Guest Post by John Guminski. He’s a Junior at the University of Missouri majoring in Journalism.

Catcher Geovany Soto to the Texas Rangers for RHP Jacob Brigham

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo provided plenty of depth at the catcher’s position behind incumbent Geovany Soto entering the 2012 season.

Soto’s season long struggles at the plate, in addition to being the oldest and more expensive backstop, was also a deciding factor in shipping him to Arlington.

In return the Cubs receive Double-A right-hander Jacob Brigham. His fastball sits at 91-93 with an average curve and change. Brigham could fit into a middle relief role down the road.

Paul Maholm & Reed Johnson to Braves for pitchers Arodys Vizcaino & Jaye Chapman

This a classic example of buy low and sell high that has worked for the Cubs to bolster their farm system. Maholm’s sensational pitching of late seemed to considerably raise his trade value towards the deadline.

Johnson has been as steady as ever off the bench. His 13 pinch-hits are tied for the most in the majors and most importantly, he’s stayed healthy this season. Reed’s versatility defensively is also a plus, especially in the NL as a guy who does well spot-starting or coming in off the bench mid-game.

The return pieces for the Cubs are quite intriguing. Although Arodys Vizcaino is out for the season after undergoing Tommy John surgery in March, he was a top 3 prospect in a very deep Braves organization a year ago.

The Braves rushed him along last season and had slotted him into a relief role with the big club before his injury. He features a high 90’s fastball and an excellent curve with fantastic control.

If he doesn’t have the durability to continue as a starter, he certainly has the stuff to replace Carlos Marmol at closer.

Jaye Chapman is a 25-year-old reliever in Triple-A. He’s striking out 10.1 per 9 on his with a 3.52 ERA. He projects to be a middle reliever with an upside to be an impact player.

Ryan Dempster to Rangers for RHP Kyle Hendricks and 3B Christian Villanueva

The final deal was the most expected, although Texas ended up somewhat of a surprise destination for the 35-year-old Dempster.

Christian Villanueva was the only hitter acquired at the deadline by the Cubs. Seen as a sleeper around many scouts, he sports an above-average glove while hitting .285 with 10 home runs in advanced A-ball.

Right-hander Kyle Hendricks, throwing in the high 80’s, relies on his cutter and curveball as out pitches. He’s more of a throw-in to the deal, but projects as back end starter material.

In Summary

Theo and Jed concentrated their efforts to fill the need for pitching depth in the Cubs minor league system. The pair could also further increase the returns later this month with a deal for Soriano, who’s willing to waive his no-trade right to join a contender once he likely passes through waivers.

Matt Garza’s unfortunate injury, fluid build-up on his right triceps, appeared to kill the lack of interest from potential suitors at the deadline.

It appeared the Cubs had every intention of dealing Garza, but doing so will be on hold until the offseason as Garza is not an August trade candidate (no way he’ll get through waivers).

It remains to be seen whether or not the Cubs will reconsider offering Garza the long-term contract he so desires.

All things considered, the Cubs trade deadline deals were a good step in the right direction towards the massive rebuilding project.

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Celebrating the Trade Deadline

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 5:59 pm Leave a comment.

I found today’s non-waiver trade deadline thrilling. Lots of player movement, big names in the mix, and the hotly contested division races in both leagues seemed to get even tighter.

I’d love to ramble on about the winners and losers during today’s trading period, but the exhaustion of pulling an all-nighter and then updating the trade tracker this afternoon is finally taking its toll.

By no means is this a complaint. There’s simply no place I’d rather be than working the phones and the keyboard like a mad-man! But the adrenaline from the early mornings hours has worn thin—Dempster, after all, has been traded!

So we’ll save those thoughts on the deadline trades for a latter post.

In the meantime, I’m taking a break from the computer and heading to Wrigley Field for tonight’s Cubs vs. Pirates game.

I’ll definitely do some tweeting, but I’m largely looking to relax for a bit and just enjoy watching the Cubs, or what’s left of them.

Greatly appreciate everyone who checked in on the Trade Tracker. Always looking out for the visual learners :)

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MLB Trade Tracker 2012

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 7:00 am 1 comment.

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Reaction To Cubs Trades: Maholm, Johnson & Soto

By bullpenbrian - July 31, 2012 - 3:10 am Leave a comment.

I watched the Cubs 14-4 shellacking of Pittsburgh (you’re welcome Reds fans) from the bleachers Monday night. Definitely one of the most enjoyable games I’ve been to all year.

But all the excitement that came from a nine-run fifth-inning and home runs from Barney, Castro and Rizzo, quickly turned the buzz in the bleachers to trade anticipation after Reed exited the game in the fifth inning and Soto soon after.

I rushed home after the final out, quickly showered and then began digesting the Cubs latest player movement.

Quite honestly, my initial reaction to the trades was “Thank gawd. Something finally went down.” I’ll admit, I was growing more nervous with each passing hour the Cubs didn’t make a move as we close in on today’s 3pm EST non-waiver trade deadline.

PAUL MAHOLM & REED JOHNSON TRADED TO BRAVES

It turns out my gut feeling was right about Paul Maholm ending up with the Braves.

July 29 Post: “My gut feeling is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.”

It’s a good fit for Paul and for Reed. It also appears what the Braves can’t make up in talent towards catching Washington in the NL East they’ll instead rely on high-character, team-first personnel the likes of both Maholm and Johnson.

There’s never anything wrong with adding a couple of high-character guys to a ball club. The Cardinals dynamic team-character largely outweighed its talent en route to winning the World Series last year.

The return pieces in the trade with Atlanta look favorable as well. You can read more about it here.

GEOVANY SOTO TRADED TO RANGERS 

In the ‘Lucky Dog’ trade of the day, Geovany Soto is changing his Cubbie blue for silver spurs. Good for him, good for the Cubs.

Soto couldn’t be in a better situation. Texas needed a quality back-up catcher and Soto is plenty good to fit the bill for a couple of months.

Despite not hitting worth a darn this season (.199/.284/.347), we know the potential is there for Soto to contribute offensively with Texas, not that the Rangers are in any need of offensive help.

But Soto’s greater value to the Rangers is his ability to call a good game and provide much needed relief down the stretch for his counter-part, Mike Napoli.

I’m happy Soto gets this opportunity to compete for a ring considering his career has basically trended downwards since his Rookie of the Year campaign in 2008.

This could very well be the last shot the 29-year-old gets, not just to play for a contender, but to remain in the majors before he hits himself out of the league.

Steve Clevenger and Welington Castillo, meanwhile, will fill out the Cubs catching corps nicely throughout the rest of the season.

It was time the Cubs moved on from the underachieving Soto, and time to find out whether Clevenger or Castillo should remain as part of the Cubs rebuilding plan.

WHAT TO EXPECT OF THE PLAYERS COMING IN RETURN

Not surprisingly, the return for Soto is minor league RHP Jacob Brigham. The 24-year-old is (5-5, 4.28 ERA) through 20 starts with Double-A Frisco.

You can read more about Brigham here.

With two trades the Cubs received three minor league hurlers. Knowing trades are never a sure thing, and neither Maholm, Johnson or Soto were of great trade value, my hope is for two of the three prospects to pan out.

It might only be one that finds his way to the Cubs 25-man roster, or none for that matter. But given the current state of the Cubs, these are calculated risks Team Theo needed to make.

Now that the ball’s rolling, it doesn’t appear the Cubs will stop here with player trades–nor should they.

The big fish of Dempster, Garza and Soriano are left to fry. And the best part is, today’s the deadline…no more waiting games.

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Paul Maholm Cubs Top Trade Piece

By bullpenbrian - July 29, 2012 - 9:30 am Leave a comment.

In early June I wrote a post saying the Cubs needed more from Paul Maholm. At the time he was (4-5) having gone winless over his last five starts and was struggling to get past the fifth inning.

It was unsettling for two reasons:

  • 1.) The Cubs simply needed more innings logged from its 30-year-old southpaw to reduce the stress on its subpar bullpen.
  • 2.) Maholm’s trade value was seemingly decreasing with each start.

Oh, how things have changed.

Maholm enters today’s game against St. Louis looking to win a career-best sixth consecutive start. He’s (5-0) over his last six outings (five starts, one brief relief appearance vs. Mets before the All Star break) with a dazzling 0.94 ERA.

He’s averaged nearly 8-innings pitched during the stretch and no more than one earned run allowed per outing. His trade value has risen from a blip on the radar to arguably the Cubs strongest trading chip before Tuesday non-waiver trade deadline.

DEMPSTER & GARZA TRADE VALUE THE GREAT UNKNOWN

The precarious case of Ryan Dempster’s refusal to approve a trade anywhere other than Los Angeles (for the time being) has deprived Team Theo of leverage in trade discussions. And it’s entirely possible Dempster may not be dealt at all.

Same can be said for Matt Garza who’s dealing with fluid buildup on his right triceps. Trading for Garza would be to buy “blindfolded,” according to one National League executive speaking to Yahoo! Sports Tim Brown on Friday morning.

This, of course, leaves Maholm as the prized trade piece on a Cubs roster On Sale from top to bottom.

WHO WANTS MAHOLM?

The Pirates and Royals were quickly tabbed as suitors for Maholm two weeks ago. But the list has obviously grown with Maholm pitching like Cy Young and Pittsburgh having already traded for lefty starter Wandy Rodriguez.

The Braves, Nationals and Orioles are still in the market for pitching help, and with Zack Greinke dealt to the Angels and Cole Hamels locked up long-term in Philadelphia, Maholm’s stock is steadily rising with the big-guns falling off the trade board.

The Dodgers, as Cubs fans well know, are also seeking another starter. What a weird turn of fate if Maholm–and not Dempster or Garza–ends up the Cub pitching in Dodger blue.

My gut feeling, however, is Maholm ends up in Atlanta. The fact the Cubs and Braves already came to terms for Dempster, despite the outcome, tells us the Cubs like what the Braves have to offer as far as talented pitching prospects and Atlanta is clearly ready to deal.

I never thought Paul Maholm would be the Cubs saving grace come July 31, but it’s unquestionably turned out that way considering every attempt at rebuilding through the trades of Dempster & Garza has been futile for TheoJed to date. Indeed, how things have changed.

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May The Cubs Fourth Be With You

By bullpenbrian - July 5, 2012 - 8:15 am Leave a comment.

Anthony Rizzo

Fireworks from Anthony Rizzo, Bryan LaHair and Jeff Baker backed six strong innings from Paul Maholm helping the Cubs do something they’ve accomplished only six times in the last 20-years—win on the Fourth of July.

Granted the Cubs have never been known for timely wins, but they are (117-96-3) all-time on Independence Day, including Wednesday’s 5-1 victory against Atlanta.

For all the hardships this season, it was nice for a change to sit back and enjoy a good, all-around Cubs win on our Nation’s birthday. Yes indeed, God Bless America!

Cubs’ Record on Fourth of July Last 20-years:

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Cubs Need More IP From Maholm

By bullpenbrian - June 8, 2012 - 1:45 am Leave a comment.

Forget the fact Paul Maholm (4-5) is winless over his last five starts.

It’s not the victories the Cubs need most from Maholm. It’s innings logged that’s crucial from their lone left-handed starter.

With the Cubs weakest link its bullpen, it’s imperative the starters last long enough to shorten the game for the pen.

Maholm, unfortunately, simply isn’t getting the job done.

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