The Chicago Cubs offense finally seems to have broken out of their deep slumber, as for the third straight day they won a ball game while putting up more then enough offense. One would think that all would be right in the world for Cub fans now that the offense has woken up. However, as the old saying goes, when one door closes, another one usually opens. Well, the door to the Cubs offensive slump has seemingly closed, but another door opened up today, which could leave Cub fans with the cold sweats.
Over the past couple of weeks, the Cubs offense has been struggling to even score one run in a game on a consistent basis. They had a very long string of games without scoring, then followed that up with an offensive explosion. That explosion only lasted a day before the slump kick in once again. This trend went on for a few games until the series with the Florida Marlins began. In the first game, fans would have thought everything was right when Milton Bradley and Mike Fontenot hit back to back home runs, but that would be where the offense stopped that day. The next three games though, the Cubs scored at least six runs in winning efforts each night. You could possibly write things off to them taking advantage of a struggling ball club in the Marlins, or you can say that they are finally starting to put everything together. I chose to be the optimist here and say they are finally putting everything together.
While Bradley continues to struggle at the plate (and I will get back to him in a bit), Derrek Lee seems to be coming out of his slump as he belted his second home run of the series, this time a Grand Slam. While Lee is seemingly snapping out of his funk, another hitter is emerging as a serious threat in the middle of the order. After blasting another ball over the wall, Fontenot now has five home runs. He is showing that he belongs in the discussion of the power threats in the Cubs lineup. One player who does not look as though he belongs, is Bradley, and fans are starting to let him know they are not happy.
After striking out in his final at bat of the day, he was showered with a loud chorus of boos from the crowd. Cub fans are getting frustrated with his lack of production, and are getting tired of waiting for him to show up. Part of me has got to wonder if they are showing their displeasure with him only because of his lack of production, or if there is another motive behind the booing. Cub fans are not stupid, not by any means. They all know that Kerry Wood and Mark DeRosa were not re-signed because they needed the money they would have gotten to pay Bradley’s contract. While neither Wood (1-1 6.00 ERA 5 for 5 in Save opportunities) or DeRosa (.235 BA 5 HR 19 RBI) are having stellar years, fans are still unhappy that they were sent packing ending their Cub careers. Both could possibly be reasons why fans are showing their displeasure of Bradley’s lack of production. No matter what the reason is, he needs to step up his contributions fast, before the fans turn on him completely. Bradley will start hitting, he is too good of a ball player not to. Only question is will he be able to get on track before he becomes the most hated man to every play for the Cubs.
Okay, I have put off the bad news long enough. With the good news of the offense snapping out of their funk, you had to know that bad news wouldn’t be too far off. In the top of the fifth inning Carlos Zambrano lead off the inning, and for some unknown reason he tried bunting for a base hit. To his credit, Zambrano laid down a perfect bunt and beat out the throw to first base. The only problem is, when he was beating out the throw to first, he strained his hamstring and put his next start in jeopardy. If we are lucky, he will only miss his next start. I know that Zambrano prides himself on being the complete ball player, and trust me, that he is. I am sure you have all heard of the “five tool player” in baseball, but Zambrano is a six tool player because he is also a dominating pitcher. But I have got to question his reasoning in laying down a leadoff bunt. While he was trying to help the team in a tie ball game, he might have inadvertently done more harm then good. He was taking to the hospital to be examined, and results will be known tomorrow. Hold your breath Cub fans, because losing Zambrano for a significant period of time will be a fatal blow; one we might not be able to recover from.
Well, to wrap things up, we won three games in a row, and score 20 runs in those three games. The offense is looking better, and the bullpen is being steady. They aren’t throwing great, but they are not throwing too bad. At least not in the last three games anyway. This season has already been a very bumpy ride, and I have a feeling that things may just be getting started with bumpier rides still to come.
Of particular consideration is the fact that Aaron Heilman was slated to be a setup man or 7th inning middle reliever. As a result, he was conditioned for this role from the beginning of spring training. As such, we can presume that preseason preparation program was optimized for him to pitch one inning at a time, 2-3 times per week. The sum total of his actual workload in the season, however, was more comparable to that of a long reliever / spot starter. In fact, the only relievers in 2008 who threw more pitches than Heilman and Marmol were those who made at least a few starts, and who were used almost exclusively in long relief roles: Chan Ho Park, Hong Chih Kuo, Boof Bonser, and Carlos Villanueva.
But then what about Marmol, who threw 19 more pitches than Heilman and had perhaps the best season of any setup man / middle reliever in baseball?
Unlike Heilman, however, Marmol was never used in both ends of a doubleheader. He threw more than 26 pitches in an outing 17 times (compared to Heilman’s 16), but never more than 51 (Heilman did it twice).
Also of concern is the fact that both Marmol and Heilman rely heavily on a mid-90s fastball. Generally speaking, throwing at a higher velocity takes more toll on a pitcher’s body.
It has to be understood that these numbers reflect the most abused pitchers in all of MLB — the vast majority of middle relievers are used 10-12 times per month, 160-220 pitches per month. Total pitches for the year for a typical middle reliever is anywhere from 650-1100.
Thank you again to metstoday.com for those stats and passages.
Well, just wanted to get these thoughts out there. What do you think?