Tagged: Chicago

The Chicago Cubs offensive offense breaks out for a night

Please note, that I am writing part of this while the Chicago Cubs are playing tonight.

You just had to know the trends would not last forever, they couldn’t. The Cubs offense would not be slumping all season long, they would break out sooner or later. That is exactly what they did last night against the Pittsburgh Pirates, as they score a total of eight runs, three more runs then they scored on the entire road trip. You would think, that with score eight runs, the Cubs won the game. Yeah, you would think that, but you would be wrong. The great pitching the Cubs were getting on the road trip, also came to an end, as the pitching staff as a whole gave up 10 runs. That just figures, don’t you think? The Cubs get all that great pitching without getting the run support, and as soon as the bats wake up the pitching has a set back. Just seems to be the case

As far as the offense goes, and the sudden break out that occurred last night, they are still a pathetic group to look at. While they were able to pound the Pirates, who have been the doormat of the National League for over a decade, this is still an offense which is struggling more then anyone could have imagined. To see just how bad this offense has been performing, all you have to do is look at the statistics. We have two of or everyday players batting over .300, which is pretty damn pathetic. Aramis Ramirez, who is going to be out for at least another month is hitting .364, while Kosuke Fukudome is batting .308. After those two, Ryan Theriot is the next leader on the batting average as far as everyday players go with his .273 average. No one on this roster should be holding their heads high in regards to their offensive outputs as they are all playing disgraceful baseball. While every player on the team is putting up disgraceful numbers, there are a handful of guys in the lineup who are appearing as though they may be ready to break out completely. Derrek Lee and Milton Bradley have both been playing better baseball then they had been for the majority of the season.

As soon as the calendar switched from April to May, Lee has seemingly flipping the switch, and his bat has come to life. While Lee put up a pathetic .189 batting average in April, he is hitting at a .333 clip for May, and his average has climbed to a .248. While his current batting average is still really ugly, Lee is starting to play the way he has his whole career. He may not match the power numbers that he has put up over the course of his career, but he has four months to get 15 more homeruns which will be close to his career average in homers. Lee coming to life is a great sign, as the Cubs need him to be the player that he has always been.

Bradley on the other hand, his climb back up to respectability will be a much longer road to hike. While he is still struggling to break the .200 mark, he has been taking some good swings and hitting the ball hard. With the contact he is making, the hits will start to fall and his average will rise. The problem Bradley will have is keeping his mouth shut when the situation involves the umpires. While I can see the argument he made, to a very limited point, when he claimed the umps were all out to get him, you do not, under any circumstances voice your frustration to the media. Nothing good can ever come from publicly questioning the umpire’s agenda. If you honestly believe that the umpires are out to get you, what do you think publicly complaining about them is going to do? Get them to back off and call things fair? If they do have an agenda against Bradley, his calling them out if the fashion he did will only upset them even more. Now, he is calling out Paul Sullivan for baiting him into saying what he said. Perhaps his media ban should be brought back into effect, he will get into less trouble that way. Outside of Lee and Bradley, all of the other struggling Cubs (Fukudome and Ramirez excluded) have done nothing to impress anyone.

You can say that Theriot has impressed by showing signs of power, but with that power came a massive dip in average. He went from a very impressive .317 April average, all the way down to .273 thanks to his hitting .229 for May. While his power bat has awoken, he sacrificed everything that made him a great two hole batter.

Don’t even get me started on Alfonso Soriano, while he is hitting over .400 while having the first at bat of the game, his batting average as a whole has fallen to a pathetic .253. Sadly, his average is the third best in terms of active everyday players. If your leadoff hitter is hitting that poorly overall, you will not win many games.

Mike Fontenot, whose batting average is only 10 points higher then Bradley’s (who is bringing up the rear in terms of everyday players) is showing that he is not an everyday player. You can talk about how the change in position has hurt his play, but that is the biggest load of bull you can say. The good ball players can adapt and continue to play well, even with a position change. You want proof? Ryan Braun, Albert Pujols and Alex Rodriguez have all changed positions, and are all still dominant players. Say what you will about steroids when you talk about A-Rod or Pujols, but they did not let a change in position hurt their offensive output.

Micah Hoffpauir is another one of those players who is slowly proving that he should not play everyday. There is a reason he has not gotten a starting gig with the Cubs all those years he was in the organization. While his .267 average is far from the worst on the club, he has played in the last four games as a starter and has one hit in 16 tries. I know that four games is a very small sample size, so lets break things down like this. In every game he starts, he has 18 hits in 75 at bats for a .240 average as a starter. As a bat off the bench he is 5 of 11 for a .455 average. Again, small sample sizes, but the numbers are not pretty when he starts a game.

Geovany Soto will not escape my complaints, as he has completely fallen off what he was expected to be. He appears to be much heavier then he was in his Rookie of the Year campaign. You can point fingers and lay blame on the World Baseball Classic all you want for his poor play, but you can not blame that event for him not being in shape. His .214 batting average is simply disgusting, considering everything he accomplished last year. He won the ROY award, and was the first National League rookie catcher to ever start an All Star game. Other then not being in the shape that he should be in , I do not know what is wrong with him. Whatever is causing his struggles, Soto needs to figure things out fast.

While the pitching staff had a bad night last night, for the most part they have been solid. With the obvious exception of Neal Cotts who I have been voicing my displeasure with all season. I wont get into him tonight, but I don’t think that he will be on the roster too much longer. He definitely will not finish the season on the 25 man roster.

The Cubs have a little over four months of baseball left to play in the regular season, and are currently five games out of first. They have time to turn things around, but if the offense continues to show very little signs of life, they will not be able to hang around for long. The good news, we are currently in the top of the second inning with one out. The Cubs lead 1-0, thanks to a solo shot by Fukudome. Come on Cubs, you need to snap this losing streak.

Cubs just cant catch a break

The Chicago Cubs just cant seem to catch a break, can they? Today the Cubs activated staff ace Carlos Zambrano from the disabled list, and unfortunately made a corresponding move by placing Rich Harden on with a back strain. I guess everyone should have seen this coming, as a season without Harden getting injured and placed on the disabled list just doesn’t happen. They will spin the injury the same way they always have, that this is not an arm injury so there is no need to be overly concerned. But guess what, while the injury is not arm related the back also plays a role in a pitchers delivery.

Many people, myself included, feel that when healthy Harden is the best pitcher in the rotation. His injury is just another slap in the face of Cub fans, and will prolong the M*A*S*H parade the Cubs have been on all season. What this move means, is that neither Randy Wells or Sean Marshall will need to be moved into the bullpen at the current moment. Wells will take Harden’s start on Saturday, and will give Cubs Manager Lou Piniella another look at his young starter to help him decide which pitcher will remain in the rotation when everyone comes back healthy.

We managed to survive for three weeks without Zambrano due to the other pitchers picking up the slack, and pitching gems. They will have to continue doing so now that Harden will be out for two weeks. This injury to Harden really is a shame, because Harden has been pitching well and has looked healthier then any other time in his career. The dog days of Summer are upon us, and June is right around the corner. This is just another obstacle the Cubs will have to over come on their own, as there will not be a trade made to save them.

Cubs are hurting, but help may never come

Just when you didn’t think things could get much worse for the Chicago Cubs, surprise, they have jut gotten worse. I guess this was to be expected when you are a fan of the Cubs, anything that can go wrong, will go wrong. The offensive slumber continued on for a third straight game, while the starting pitcher once again threw the ball well enough to pick up the win. For that matter, the bullpen has pitched great this series as well. Unfortunately, all their hard work was for nothing. While this is nothing new, there are new concerns coming to light that Cub fans should be aware of, as they will follow our team around for the rest of the season. With his recent actions and comments, Cubs Manager Lou Piniella has apparently lost his mind, or is very close to having a massive meltdown. To top everything off, Cubs General Manager Jim Hendry may not be able to do a thing to help out our ball club with a trade.

Last night, Sean Marshall continued the trend by pitching well enough to keep the Cubs in the game. However, the offense also continued their trend by not scoring enough runs to win the game. For the second time in this series, the Cubs scored only a single run in the game. In case you are keeping score, that is a grand total of two runs in the three game set. I don’t care who you are, you are not going to have much success if you can only tally two runs in three games. Don’t play the blame game on the pitchers either, they limited the St. Louis Cardinals to eight runs in the three game set, but that was obviously not enough. I was joking when I said the pitchers may just have to throw a shutout every game to have a chance of winning, but that is looking to be the case more and more with every passing game. With our offense in a slumber this deep, the great pitching they have been getting wont matter one bit. While we are still only in the month of May, and only four games out of first, time is slowly starting to pass the team by.

With our offense struggling to score runs, Piniella and his coaching staff are trying to find ways to add more offense to the lineup. Due to Mike Fontenot’s failure to live up to expectations, Piniella threw an idea out, which he deems as the last resort. His idea? Move Alfonso Soriano back to second base and insert Micah Hoffpauir into the vacated spot in left field. Personally, I feel that this would be the biggest mistake our manager could make, and would likely do more harm then good. For one, I don’t think anyone remembers just how bad Soriano was at second base. He has averaged 21 errors a season while playing in the infield. To top that off, Hoffpauir isn’t exactly a great fielder either. So while we may improve our offense, I don’t believe that they will be able to out hit their errors. Leave them where they are, adding offense by taking away from our defense will not solve any of our problems.

Some people may be speculating that this is all just talk coming from Piniella as a way to tell Hendry the Cubs need help fast. However, that help may never come as Hendry’s hands may very well be tied. With word coming out that the ownership situation with the Cubs may not be settled until at least August, I don’t know how much Hendry can do to improve this team. Without a true owner anymore, and the team in the final stages of being sold, the Cubs funds are all but limited. That is one reason why the Cubs were unable to finalize a trade for Jake Peavy over the winter, they could not guarantee the $22 million dollar option at the end of the contract. That’s the same reason why the Chicago White Sox were unable to get Peavy’s nod of approval. Without any money to spend, the Cubs appear to be stuck with the team they currently have, only adding to the team through promotions from the minors. So anyone who was hoping to land Peavy or a bat to help the offense at the deadline, you can likely count that out. The trade deadline will likely pass before the Cubs officially change hands, and any major player will not clear waivers so we can make a deal.

From the looks of things, this is going to be a very long season. The Cubs best hitter Aramis Ramirez is still over a month away from returning to the team, and there is no telling just how much of an impact he will make when he does get back. While Derrek Lee is starting to look like he is getting back into form, Geovany Soto continues to struggle, Fontenot has fallen below the Mendoza Line and Milton Bradley still cant buy a hit. In his defense, though, he has been driving the ball hard lately. The problem is, he is hitting the ball at people. The hits will start to fall, and while he may not end the season around the .300 mark as we would have hoped, he should start to be a contributor on a regular basis. Don’t even get me started on Aaron Miles, he has been nothing short of a disaster thus far in the season. After our 1-2-3 hitters, everything else seems to be up in the air, and with that being the case the Cubs are headed nowhere fast. Thankfully, Carlos Zambrano is returning tonight. Not only do the Cubs get back a great pitcher, but they get back a much needed bat. Even if he will not be running as hard as he could, his bat could give our boys at least a little bit of a much needed spark.

Crazy couple of days for your Chicago Cubs

My oh my, what a couple of days we have just had here in the world of the Chicago Cubs. In case you haven’t been paying attention, the Cubs have just won their fifth game in a row, which is their longest winning streak of the year. Also in these past few days, the judgment was finally made on Milton Bradley’s appeal of his two game suspension. Oh yeah, one more thing has happened, Rick Telander of the Chicago Sun-Times wrote an article on steroids in baseball, and threw out Ryan Theriot’s name into the mix. These past few days have been something else, but in case you have been out of the loop, allow me to catch you up.

Lets start with Bradley’s suspension, since the news of this came out first. In the post game press conference of Thursday night’s win over the San Diego Padres, Cubs General Manager revealed that the empty suits in Major League Baseball have finally decided to share the ruling on Bradley’s appeal. Even though both Bradley, and the umpire Vanover agreed that there were no threats or foul language, the suspension was upheld, but reduced to only one game. I know the rules of baseball state that contact between a player and an umpire requires a suspension, but the contact that was made was so slight the suspension should not have been made. When the brim of a players helmet hit’s the bill of the umpire’s cap, that should not be considered contact. No matter how any of us feel, the suspension was carried out, and Bradley sat out today’s game against the Houston Astros.

I know what many of you are saying when you are talking about the suspension. Many of you are wondering why Bradley didn’t just take his suspension when he was injured and wasn’t playing, instead of going through the entire appeal process and then sitting out when he was fully healthy. First and foremost, I must admit that I agree with all of you who feel this way. While he wanted to stand up for himself, he needed to put the team ahead of his own self image. Everyone knew that the suspension and fine would not be eliminated completely. No matter how any of us feel, he did fight the suspension and he technically walked away with a victory in the hearing, though not the complete victory he was hoping for. He paid his debt to baseball, and now he can get on with his baseball life and get back to doing what he was paid to do. Help the Cubs win the world series. Hopefully now we can put this matter behind us for good and look forward.

Today the Cubs played the first game of their rain shortened series against the Astros. The first game of the series, which was scheduled to be played on Friday afternoon, was rained out, and will be made up in July. As I already stated, the Cubs won today, even with Bradley sitting out, to extend their winning streak to five games. Today’s game was a roller coaster ride all the way through. The game was scoreless until the sixth inning when the Cubs scored three times, which included a Micah Hoffpauir two run homer that followed a Derrek Lee RBI single. The score would remain that way until the eighth inning when Geovany Soto tacked on what would turn out to be a much needed run to give the Cubs a 4-0 lead heading into the ninth. All secure, or so you would have thought. The Cubs bullpen stepped up and delivered two back to back perfect innings by Angel Guzman and Carlos Marmol. All that would be left would be for Kevin Gregg to come in and get the final three outs. With a four run lead, the fans in the stadium were warming up their vocal chords to sing “Go Cubs Go”. However, they would have to wait a little longer then they would have liked to.

Gregg entered the game, and immediately gave up two solo homeruns on three pitches, and the Cubs lead was now cut in half. The next three men all reached base, two with hits and one by being hit by a pitch. So here we were, bases loaded and up by two runs with no outs. A nightmarish situation for any Cub fan to witness. After Gregg loaded the bases, Cubs manager Lou Piniella had seen enough and called Aaron Heilman out from the bullpen to try and fnish the game off. However, that would not be the case because on the first pitch Ivan Rodriguez singled scoring two men to tie the game. Heilman would get the next two men out before walking Michael Bourn to once again load the bases. Again, Piniella had seen enough and went to the pen again. This time, he called in lefty Sean Marshall to try and keep the game tied. Three pitches later, we were heading to the bottom of the ninth looking for that much needed walk off win.

The bottom of the ninth started out great for the Cubs. First we saw former Cub LaTroy Hawkins on the mound, Cub fans who unfortunately remember him knew this could only mean good things. For the Cubs, they had 31 year old rookie Bobby Scales stepping up to the plate, and he worked a full count, then drew a leadoff walk. Good things always tend to happen when you start off an inning with a walk. Aaron Miles was up next, and against my better judgment laid down a sacrifice bunt to move Scales over to second. I say against my better judgment because I was sure they would walk Alfonso Soriano with first base open and a runner at second. Thankfully, that was not the plan that Hawkins and the Astros had in mind. They pitched to Soriano, and that’s all we needed. After two quick strikes, Soriano popped a single into right field and Scales crossed home plate to score the winning run.

Gregg flat out sucked today, which will only add logs to the fire of fans who hate him, and want him out of the closers role. There are no words that I can give to even begin to defend Gregg at this point, because today’s game was inexcusable. How he could blow the game that badly is beyond me. For the past few games, he has been solid and actually looked like he had his job locked down, and then he goes out there and drops this disaster of an outing. The calls for Marmol to be the new closer are already starting, as are a few calls for Guzman to take the job. However, this game will not be the final nail in Gregg’s job as closer. He will have more chances to do the job before Piniella yanks him from the closers job.

Finally, Telander wrote an article on Friday about steroids, and brought up Theriot’s name. During the course of the article, he half heartedly accused Theriot of using steroids. However, he only brought up his name tongue in cheek, and only to make his point that now everyone in baseball should now be a suspect. The downside, he has now marked Theriot as a steroid user, even if he didn’t mean to, he has now tarnished Theriot’s career. Take a look at Theriot’s body and tell me he is a user. He is listed at 5’11” and around 170 pounds, yet he is going to have to walk around with the whispers of steroid use following him. Good job Telander, way to bring down someone to make a point. Just because he is performing above expectations, you had to single him out. Why not call out a slugger who at least looks like a possible candidate. Such players like Albert Pujols from the St. Louis Cardinals, or Ryan Howard from the Philadelphia Phillies. Don’t get me wrong, I am NOT saying that they are users, but they would fit the image of a steroid abuser more then Theriot ever could.

Like I said, these past few days have been crazy, and a lot has gone down. I am sure things will continue to get crazy throughout the season, after all, this wouldn’t be a Cubs season without a lot of craziness following the team around, don’t you agree?

Cubs sweep the Padres out of Chicago

The Chicago Cubs have swept their first series of the year, beating the San Diego Padres in a three game set. Perhaps the timing is just a coincidence, but the sweep comes on the very first series the Cubs have played without Aramis Ramirez. Maybe, just maybe the Cubs will be able to keep pace with the rest of the National League Central. Or maybe the Padres are just really really bad. No matter the reason you lean towards, the Cubs are doing exactly what they need to do while Ramirez is on the disabled list. That is winning games by having everyone else pick up their own games. There is no single player who deserves credit, as they have all been team wins.

The starting pitching was outstanding this series, as all three of our starters lasted into at least the sixth inning. Rich Harden matched would be Cub Jake Peavy pitch for pitch and eventually showed that he was the better pitcher on the day limiting the Padres to two runs. Not to be outdone, Ted Lilly matched Harden’s efforts, by mirroring the first inning but ending with only allowing three runs in six plus innings. Ryan Dempster, not to be outdone by his fellow pitchers went out and threw a gem to secure the sweep allowing only two runs in seven innings of work. You shouldn’t be too surprised with the starting staff, as everyone in the rotation has appeared to step things up when staff ace Carlos Zambrano went down with his hamstring injury.

However, the starters are not the only pitchers to shut down the Padres, the bullpen put together three great games. In their 6.2 innings the combined for five hits and two runs. The first run came in the eighth inning of Wednesday nights rain shortened game off of Carlos Marmol who picked up the unexpected save. The second came off of Jose Ascanio making his first appearance of the season in Thursdays game. Everyone, with the exception of David Patton and Neal Cotts, in the bullpen contributed in this series, and all deserve credit for helping the Cubs keep their leads.

The Cubs offense thrived in this series, scoring six runs in the first two games and 11 in the final game. In the series there were six home runs, two by Ryan Theriot and one each by Alfonso Soriano, Milton Bradley, Geovany Soto and Bobby Scales. None of those homers came in the finale though, that was all done with good clutch hits. Speaking of Bradley, while we are still waiting to hear word on the verdict of his appeal, he has begun to heat things up with his bat. While he is still hitting .194 he has put together a good hitting streak which has seen his batting average climb in the past few games. Be patient with him, because when you start off as slow as he did, there will be a long climb back to respectability with the batting average. Soto is another player who seems to be coming out of his season long slump. He has put together a couple of games where he has been the player we saw last year. The only everyday players who still seem to be in a slump are first baseman Derrek Lee and second baseman Mike Fontenot. While his critics have been calling for Micah Hoffpauir to replace Lee, Cubs manager Lou Piniella has stuck with Lee despite his struggles. Fontenot, who is also struggling doesn’t seem to be getting any grief for his slump, maybe because he isn’t being paid nearly as much as Lee. However if Scales continues playing as well as he has since being recalled, Fontenot might find his way back to the bench at some point this season.

Not really much from me today, which is rare, but I will end with this. As I mentioned in my last blog, the Cubs are doing fine without their best player for now. Whether or not that will continue to be the case, I don’t know. But they are on a four game winning streak, which is pretty damn good. The offense has come together and has been putting up great numbers to help the Cubs win games. The pitching staff has come together with some amazing starts as well. Everyone is picking up the ball that was dropped when Ramirez left, and that is exactly what had to be done for the Cubs to survive. Even though there is still plenty of time left for the Cubs without Ramirez, these past few games has got to of eased the minds and worried hearts of Cub fans everywhere. Lets go to Houston to play the Astros, and continue what has been started.

Plenty of reasons for Cub fans to have optimism, even without Ramirez

These past few days since Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez went down with an injury, I have heard a lot of gloom and doom from a good portion of their fans. Granted, when your best hitter gets put on the shelf with an injury for up to two months, your team will be in trouble. However, I honestly believe that there is plenty of reason for optimism, despite the apparent bleak outlook. Before you ask, no I am not speaking as a typical Cub fan who always believes that this is the year. I am looking at the team as a baseball fan in general.

 

First, look at the record that the Cubs have put up without Ramirez in the lineup. In the four games that he has missed (I am counting the game he left with an injury because he left in the third inning), the Cubs are 2-2. I know that playing at a .500 clip is nothing special, but when you are without your best everyday player you will take what you can get. Please also take note, that in those four games we only had Derrek Lee playing in one of them. During that four game stretch, the Cubs played a team which is going to be in the race for the division crown in the Milwaukee Brewers.

 

Since Ramirez will be out for the next two months, let’s take a look at who exactly the Cubs will be facing, and just how good their opponents will be in that stretch. Over the next two months, and up to the All Star break, the Cubs will be playing 18 series and 55 games, counting the current series with the San Diego Padres. In those 18 series, the Cubs will be playing 12 different teams, seven of which are under the .500 mark. The combined current record of those 12 teams is exactly at the .500 mark (198-198). Don’t forget that the Cubs will also be playing the Los Angeles Dodgers without Manny Ramirez, who was suspended for failing a drug test.

 

Since the division games matter the most, let’s focus in on those. In the span of time that Ramirez will be out, the Cubs will play all five division rivals in eight different series, counting for 25 games. The record for our division opponent’s record stands at 85-78, which shows that our inner division games will pose the bigger threat. Also take note that the St. Louis Cardinals have put Ryan Ludwick on the 15-Day disabled list. While he is no Albert Pujols, he has been a beast in the games he has played against the Cubs.

 

What I am trying to say here is that while losing Ramirez for two months is going to test this team, and push them to the limits, there is no reason why we cannot win enough games to keep the race close. After all the Cubs are only 1.5 games out of first place, and that’s not bad considering everything this club has gone through in the first month and a half. Have faith my friends, you have plenty of reasons to remain optimistic that the Ramirez injury is not the end of the season.

 

For those curious of the teams we are facing until the All Star break, I have put the teams we are facing, along with their record and the number of times we will face them below.

 

5- San Diego Padres 13-20

6- Houston Astros 14-18

6- St. Louis Cardinals 20-13

6- Pittsburgh Pirates 13-19

4- Los Angeles Dodgers 22-12

6- Atlanta Braves 17-17

3- Cincinnati Reds 19-14

3- Minnesota Twins 16-17

6- Chicago White Sox 15-18

3- Cleveland Indians 13-22

3- Detroit Tigers 17-14

4- Milwaukee Brewers 19-14

198-198

The aftershock of Ramirez’s injury has past. Time to look forward

Three days ago when Chicago Cubs third baseman Aramis Ramirez injured his shoulder, Cub fans everywhere started to panic; which they did for good reason. With his injury, Ramirez will miss up to eight weeks and the Cubs do not have a viable replacement for him. While the loss of Ramirez is a devastating blow, the Cubs are not as bad off as they appear to be. Look at everything the Cubs have had to endure so far this season, and look at where they are in the standings. I think that you might come to realize that our boys in blue are doing fine, despite the looks of everything.

Take a look back at the 31 games the Cubs have played, how many games have we had Derrek Lee, Milton Bradley, and Ramirez? While I do not have an exact number, I am sure that you can count all the games on one hand. Also take into account that Geovany Soto has gotten off to a severally slow start and is battling with a sore shoulder, and Carlos Marmol has been inconsistent with an injured knee.  The Cubs also lost their best pitcher in Carlos Zambrano, who already missed the first of at least three starts. The Cubs have suffered through a tremendous amount of injuries early on, and the Cubs are still only one win off the pace they set last year. They may not be getting a lot of pretty wins, but they are getting wins none the less. After all, isn’t that what counts? Just win games, and get to the playoffs. No one will remember how you got their once you do get there.

The road to getting there might be harder then we all imagined, but we are still doing a good job. While we are not running away with the division like so many people thought, we are not being left for dead either. Currently the Cubs are in third place, only two and a half games behind the St. Louis Cardinals who are starting to come back down to earth. While you never want to be trailing in the division, especially to the hated St. Louis Cardinals, we are still a good three game stretch away from being in first place. Even with the injuries, we are hanging tough and not giving up. Sure there are road blocks along the way, but every team has them.

One major roadblock the Cubs are facing is having what may very well be the worst bullpen in the majors. Aaron Heilman has completely fallen off the face of the planet and is pitching like he did during his time in New York with the Mets. In fact, you could easily say that he is pitching worse. Neal Cotts is still struggling badly, and has yet to put together any consistency that would give Cub fans any hope that he can rebound. David Patton is, well, who he is; just an A ball player with very limited experience. While he can put forth a good two inning outing one game, he can also go out and get lit up like a Christmas tree. Marmol has been struggling in recent games as well, but appears to be coming out of his funk. While he is still walking too many people, he is getting out of the ugly jams that he seems to put himself into. Kevin Gregg still is one of the most hated men in the bullpen, likely because he replaced Kerry Wood on the roster. However, he is getting the job done. He may look bad doing things, but he is doing the job. A surprise in the bullpen is Angel Guzman, who appears to finally be figuring things out. He has had some very quality outings as of late, and may very well be the seventh inning guy Cubs Manager Lou Piniella has been looking for. Add into the fact that the Cubs added Jose AsCanio to the roster to replace the walking arm injury Chad Fox. He has been one of the best pitchers in the Cubs farm system this year, and the hope is that he will continue his dominance at the pro-level.

However, you also need to look at one of the bright sides going on for the Cubs. Bradley seems to be coming out of his season opening slump, and is starting to look very good. While he only has a .179 batting average, he is getting on base at a .321 clip. I don’t care what you say about him, a batting average that low, with an on base that high is very impressive. That is not what I am talking about though in terms of him looking good. Over the course of the five game road trip, Bradley has six hits in 20 at bats, for a .300 average. He is also going to work the count more often then not, and rarely swings at a bad pitch. You may not like him, but you are going to have to support him, because with Ramirez out, with Lee coming off an injury, Bradley will have to be one of the guys to help carry the team. Alfonso Soriano, who seems to be getting on one of his hot streaks lately as well is another man who is going to be leaned on hard to help carry a team. When Soriano gets hot, he can single handedly carry a team for at least a week, as can Bradley. Soto is another man who needs to stop up his game while Ramirez is out.  While the loss of Ramirez is the most costly loss the Cubs could endure, the Cubs have enough fire power to at least keep their head above water and keep the race close.

The road for the Cubs will be a bumpy one, but one that I honestly they will be able to survive. They may not look good getting the wins, but they will come.