When Andrew Cashner and Randy Wells went down, each after their first starts of the season, there were some fans who shrugged off the injuries because they were only the four and five pitchers for the Chicago Cubs. After a combined five starts from their replacements, Casey Coleman and James Russell, I wonder if they are singing a different tune.
Since taking over for Cashner, Russell has made two starts himself, and to be honest there has not been anything good that has come out of either one of them. He has gone a total of 5.2 innings while giving up nine runs, eight of which were earned for an ERA of 13.85. Not good numbers for a starting pitcher, not even your number five pitcher. At least Cubs Manager Mike Quade realizes how bad Russell was, and is unlikely to give him another start. When your manager says that you should likely only be a situational pitcher, that means your starting days are over. The decision came two starts, and two losses might I add too late. The next time the Cubs need a number five pitcher, another roster move might be made.
Today, the Cubs demoted Jeff Stevens back to Triple A, and recalled Justin Berg. Next time Cashner’s spot in the rotation comes up, Berg or Russell could very well be sent back to Iowa for a replacement pitcher. Who that is at the moment I am not sure, but if I were to predict I would say Thomas Diamond might get recalled to fill the void. Is he a better option than Russell? Obviously he can not be any worst, so what more do you have to lose?
Coleman on the other hand, has at least had some success in his three starts, albeit only one of the three starts showed anything promising. In his three starts, Coleman has gone 13.1 innings allowing 11 runs for a 7.43 ERA. Not great, but considering there is a massive lack of options the Cubs may be stuck. Yesterday was obviously the worst outing of his short 2011 season. Six runs allowed with four walks in 2.2 innings is not a stat you want to see, ever. The good thing, is that in his last start (the one before yesterday) he shined, at least as much as you can going 5.2 innings. He allowed only one run, while being effectively wild walking and striking out four. If push comes to shove (and we are in this desperate unfortunate situation) we can live with him for another start or two. Mainly because there likely isn’t another option in the minors.
I never thought that losing Carlos Silva, who left after refusing a minor league assignment, would come back to bite us. Granted, he is not a good pitcher, but he would have been a massive upgrade over Russell, and maybe a little better than Coleman. While that is not saying much, nor would that be all too hard to do, the Cubs need all the help they can get in the starting pitching department until Wells and Cashner get back. The minor league system is lacking Major League ready pitching, even though there are a few young minor league pitchers who have been touted as the next sure thing. Sadly, the group of young promising pitchers, which include Jay Jackson, are not ready for the majors or one of them would have been called up when either of the other two guys went down.
While they each only had one start, one time through the rotation, they had the best outing of anyone in the rotation. Losing both of them was a bigger blow than most people realized. As I mentioned when they went down, losing both of them is equal or worse to the St. Louis Cardinals losing their Ace, at least for the amount of time they would be missing. Losing your best pitcher and replacing him with your sixth best pitcher is a lot better than losing your fourth and fifth best pitchers and replacing them with your sixth and seventh best pitchers, one of whom should not even be in the majors, is a bigger blow. Argue that anyway you want to, but losing two is worse than losing one. Especially in the long run.
Tuesday would be the next time that the fifth start is to take the mound, the smart money is on Russell not making that start. Not sure who will, but you can bet that he will give the Cubs a better chance to win a game.
I know the Chicago Cubs season is only nine games old, and we still have 153 to go, but there are already some things coming to be known about this team that I do not like whatsoever. You can tell me all you want that there is still plenty of time to turn things around (which is true) and that the season is still early (again, true) but that does not mean that you can not have things that you are not happy with, and things which must be improved if you plan on having any type of success at all.
Currently, after dropping a series to the Milwaukee Brewers, the Cubs stand with a record of 4-5. Thankfully, they are about to start a three game series with the bottom dwelling Houston Astros, a team which is a good bet to get back on the right track and to start some sort of a winning streak against. However, you could have very easily said the same thing about the Pittsburgh Pirates, who took the series from the Cubs to start the season. If they can not sweep this pathetically awful team, or at very least win the series, you might as well pack your bags and call the season over. Sorry for the negativity this early on, but like I said, there are just a few things which are grinding on my nerves.
First and foremost, is the starting pitching. Going into the season, the impression was that we had a pitching staff which had some really good potential. However, after nine games, the pitching staff has been anything but good, Outside of Randy Wells and Andrew Cashner, the other three pitchers have not been living up to expectations. Both Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza have gotten smacked around pretty well their first two starts, and have both left much to be desired. Carlos Zambrano on the other hand, has not been bad, but has not been all that impressive. Sadly, the best two starts we have gotten this year comes from the two pitchers that we have just placed on the disabled list.
What is even more troubling, is new addition Garza is already not happy with our pitching coach Mark Riggins. Apparently now that we are out of the thin air of Arizona, which he blamed for his poor Spring Training, he needs a new target, and Riggins seems to be just that target. God forbid anyone ever takes responsibility for their own performance, There is always someone else that is responsible for your sucking. What I find funny, is that in his close to a decade with the Cubs, I do not remember one incident of a pitcher ever calling out Larry Rothschild for anything. Not Kerry Wood, not Carlos Zambrano, no one. But, that is another argument for another day, one not likely to be worth arguing because much like with Alfonso Soriano, Cub fans have already made up their mind on him and hate him, blaming him for all the woes of the pitching staff. But, I would just like to point out that in one off season he has appeared to have fixed A.J. Burnett, not an easy task.
Another thing that is completely ticking me off right now, is Marlon Byrd. I do not know what he was thinking yesterday, but why in the blue hell did he decide to steal second base with Aramis Ramirez up at the plate? That was likely one of the dumbest moves that I have seen from the Cubs in a very long time, and believe me that is saying something. You could tell that he either misread a sign, or completely went on his own because of the swing Ramirez took on the pitch Byrd decided to run on. Ramirez tired to protect Byrd by at least making some contact, almost sacrificing himself in the process. So Byrd not only cost us a base runner and an out, but he cost Ramirez a strike. Thanks a lot Byrd!
What is worse, is his post game interview when he was questioned about his base running blunder. He could not admit fault, which I would completely accept, but instead he got snippy with the media and told them to “beat it”. Grow up Mr. Byrd, yes you are hitting but you have no speed and should not have ran, especially not in that situation.
The we have our golden child, Starlin Castro! I love this kid, and I am more excited about him than I am about anything we have had in a long time. He is phenomenal with the bat, and every time he steps up to the plate you are always feeling like he is going to get a hit. That is how impressive this kid is. He is going to be a star! The only problem is, he is a tremendous liability with the glove. He has tremendous range, and can get to just about any ball hit on his side of second base. He also feels that he can make every throw, which is both good and bad. He has a rocket for an arm, so he always feels like he can nail a runner at first. But he needs to learn when to make a throw and when he needs to just hold on to the ball. Add into the mix that he can not apparently take a throw from a catcher, as you could see by his getting drilled on a throw from Geovany Soto on Saturday. Yes, he is still young and can learn, and his limited time in the minors probably did not help his learning process, but he needs to improve, and fast.
Those are the three things that are irritating me early in the season, however there was one roster move which is seriously scaring me. That is the Cubs signing Ramon Ortiz to a minor league contract. The first question that should cross your mind here, is why. He is old, well past his prime and likely has less than nothing left in the tank. He was likely the only pitcher the Cubs could sign, due to the severely limited fund they have; especially since they had to pay Carlos Silva $11.5 Million to go away. But why sign him?
I am afraid that I know why. Either Wells or Cashner will be missing some significant time, and the Cubs are not too enthusiastic about either Casey Coleman (who got manhandled by the Brewers yesterday) or James Russell who will be starting on Tuesday against the Astros. Hopefully this is not the case and he is just here to fill a roster spot in Triple A. The Cubs say that the injuries of Wells and Cashner are minor, but we have heard that all before.
Alright, I have vented. I am ready for some more Cubs baseball! Going against the Astros should bring the Cubs some easy wins. Just as long as the pitching actually is clicking, but I will not hold my breath.
With a week left until opening day, the Chicago Cubs have finally announced their full five man starting rotation. The top three have been known since training camp opened. Opening day starter Ryan Dempster will be followed by Carlos Zambrano and Matt Garza. Even though the official announcement only came a week ago, every knew that Randy Wells belonged as the teams fourth starter, and the fact that he had to compete for the job was a complete joke. The fifth and final starting pitching job, a battle between youngster Andrew Cashner and Carlos Silva has finally been decided; and the winner is Cashner . What this means, is I can finally finish my look at the 2012 ball club.
With Cashner beating out Silva or the fifth starting job, two birds were just killed. One on hand, the Cubs get to begin to build towards the future and use Cashner to develop at the big league level. On the other hand, the have a young pitcher with some upside in Cashner starting over Silva, whose better days are far behind him. This was the best possible move the ball club could make for both the present and the future. The Cubs are finally doing something that actually makes sense.
Today, we look at the starting pitching staff for the 2012 club and what I feel we can expect from them for the year to come.
With the Cubs tabbing Dempster to be the opening day starter, the team is already on the right path to having a successful season. Nothing against Zambrano, but over the years he has had some of his worst starts in his career on opening day. You do not need to go back much further than last years exploding disaster to get a good idea of how this usually go for him. Whether he is too amped up or not, I can not tell you, but Zambrano on opening day does not usually work out.
Looking at Dempster, he has been our most consistent pitcher over the past few years, which is probably why he will get the honor. There is no reason to believe that the trend for him will not continue Figure a good record of 16-10 with an ERA around 3.45
Zambrano, I think is the key to the whole rotation even though he is not labeled as the “ace” of the staff. However, he is still likely our best starter and might very well show that this year. The move to take him out of the opening day starters gig is more of a change of trends than a slap in his face. I see him having one of the best years of his career. I can easily see him putting up a 17-12 record and an ERA close to 3.65.
New comer Garza is switching leagues, going from the American to the National, which should help him out. However, he is also going from a pitcher friendly park to one that favors the hitters. Normally, I would give a pitcher a boost in his statistics with a switch like this, but in Garza’s case, I am not sure I can see that. For Garza, I would not be surprised to see a record of 12-10 with an Era around 4.00.
With Wells, the man who was made to compete for a job when he should not have had to, I expect a nice year from him. He has shown to have the ability to pitch well in big situations, but has never been able to get decent run support from him team. Both years as a starter, he should have won high totals, but was never able to do so because the Cubs could not score for him. I think that this is the year that all changes. Wells could very well put up a record of 16-11 with an ERA close to 3.25 earning him the recognition he truly deserves.
Finally, we have Cashner who is the wildcard in this lineup. We do not have any idea what to expect out of him, so making a predication for him would make little to no sense. But when have I ever let that stop me from doing anything? Cashner will have a shaky record of 12-11. His ERA will likely be near the low 4s. Not to spectacular, but that will be a start for him. We are better off by far having him than Silva though, no matter how well Cashner does.
By my count, the Cubs starters will be responsible for 73 wins and 54 losses, which is not all together a bad thing. That will be 19 games over .500. If they work out the way I think they could, the Cubs might have a legit shot of making some noise in the division. That means that 35 games will be decided by the bullpen, which just so happens to be the last positional blog I will be doing this spring. That one will be up tomorrow.
Last night Tom Gorzelanny had his worst outing of the 2010 baseball season, at the worst possible time. As soon as the announcement was made that Carlos Zambrano was going to be returning to the starting rotation, sooner rather than later, Gorzelanny was tabbed as the favorite to be demoted to the bullpen. Because of last night’s performance, Manager Lou Piniella had every reason to go ahead with those predictions, and make them come true. Personally, while I do not know who should be removed from the rotation, but as things stand, Gorzelanny is the top contender.
Despite his record of 2-5 on the year, he still has the third best ERA and the second lowest batting average against on the team, just behind Ryan Dempster. How anyone can say he does not keep the team in games is beyond me because in seven of his nine starts he has given up three runs or less, in that stretch, he only gave up three runs once. He has done more than his fair share to keep the team in the ballgames in which he has pitched in. But of course, baseball is sadly a “what have you done for me lately” sport; fans typically only remember the most recent outing. Unfortunately, last night, Gorzelanny put started poorly and things continued to crumble for him as he gave up seven runs, of which only five were earned thanks to a Mike Fontenot error, in only five innings while walking three men. Before last night’s fiasco, Gorzelanny actually held the Cubs best ERA on the starting staff
However, last night likely sunk any chance Gorzelanny had of remaining in the rotation, and he will more than likely replace Zambrano in the bullpen. However, if you thought that this would be the only move made when Zambrano returns to the rotation, you could be severely mistaken. With Gorzelanny heading to the bullpen, the Cubs will have four left handed relievers, more than half of their bullpen. I can not see the Cubs carrying more left handed pitchers than righties. One of the current left handed pitchers will likely be removed to make room for a right handed pitcher to replace Zambrano.
Before you get your hopes up, the Cubs will not be wishing John Grabow the best in his future endeavors. While he has not performed up to expectations, or even close, with two years left on his contract as well as a few million dollars his spot on the roster is likely safe. The best you can hope for is for him to be placed on the disabled list. But unless the Cubs are able to come up with something determined to be “season ending” this move will only buy them an extra two weeks.
Another left hander who will be safe is Sean Marshall. He has shown more than enough to convince Piniella to make him the 8th inning pitcher, and bridge the game to Carlos Marmol. Outside of Jeff Stevens, who has only appeared in two games, and Carlos Marmol, who is the teams closer and wont pitch in the middle innings, Marshall has been the best reliever the Cubs have been able to throw out there and have confidence in. His crisp .165 batting average against and solid .86 WHIP shows exactly why he will not be the odd lefty out. That leaves just one player, James Russell.
After Marshall, Russell may be the next best pitcher in the Cubs pen, but he may on his way out as soon as Zambrano makes his triumphant return. Of the three left handed pitchers the pen, Russell has the least experience, and would be the easiest pitcher to remove from the bullpen, despite the success he has had. He will just be the unfortunate casualty of war. I am sure he would understand, but how can you deny that he has done everything that was asked of him? He has pitched well enough to keep his spot in the bullpen, but his future with the Cubs 25 man roster, at least at this time, may have run out.
If, as I believe he will, Russell gets demoted, you can expect to see another young right handed pitcher called up to replace him. Either Andrew Cashner or Jay Jackson will be on the top of the list of names to be called up to effectively replacing Zambrano. With recent reports of Jackson starting tonight for the Iowa Cubs in Triple A, in place of Cashner, you can bet that Cashner is a sure fire lock to be called up when Zambrano returns to the rotation and Gorzelanny replacing Russell in the pen. That would definitely help out a struggling bullpen, and be the start of the Cashner Era.
In an honest moment, I could not possibly tell you who should be the odd man out, once Zambrano returns. You could pick any one of our current starters and make a case for them to stay in the rotation or be demoted to the bullpen. As for me though, removing Gorzelanny does not make the most sense, and the ripple effect will be felt in the bullpen.