Another season is in the books, one that for the most part we would all like to forget, again. Those of us that have bought in to the rebuilding plan that Theo and company have put into place expected this, still, it really isn’t a lot of fun to sit through 95+ losses. The common theme since the beginning of the rebuilding process has been “is Dale Sveum the right man for the job?” Well, everything that the front office has said up until the last month or so has been yes, Sveum is the right guy and he can’t be truly judged on wins and losses given this roster. The tune has changed in the last month, as now I’m thinking that Sveum has a better chance of being unemployed come Monday than he does opening the season with the Cubs in Pittsburgh next April. So, what has changed?
I think above all else Theo and the front office know what guy they want to lead the Cubs as they slowly start to gain traction, and win games on a more regular basis. I don’t think that guy is Dale Sveum, one reason for that I think is the stalled development of Anthony Rizzo and Starlin Castro this year. Not saying that Sveum is completely to blame for this, but he shares the blame as do Rizzo and Castro. Others have questioned his use of the bullpen, again not really sure how clear-cut that argument is given the choices out there. The other reason is that I think the guy the Cubs want running the show is now available, well maybe, hello Joe Girardi.
Via an ESPN article today
“I haven’t really made up my mind,” Girardi said during his nearly 30-minute state-of-the-season news conference before the Yankees’ final game against the Houston Astros.
Girardi, who turns 49 next month, said he’ll make his decision after consulting with his wife and three children, who are 14, 11 and 7.
Of course this doesn’t mean that Girardi has made up his mind yet, but I get a feeling that he is ready to move elsewhere in his managing career. There is a fit in Chicago for Girardi, but Girardi is quick to explain that he has moved on from Chicago with his family and is happy in New York. To me, there is too much smoke here for there not to be a fire, I would not be surprised to see Sveum canned tomorrow, and Girardi introduced shortly thereafter during this off-season as the next Cubs manager. If Girardi decides to stay in New York I still expect the Cubs to part ways with Sveum, I think the organization is taking a chance here, but I also think it is a necessary one to take at this point in the process. Brad Ausmus has been also rumored to be on a short list to take over the Cubs, but that is all speculation at this point as well. A change to Ausmus doesn’t make as much sense here as I don’t think you would really be “upgrading” with that move. Stay tuned tomorrow to see what will happen, I’m sure it will be an interesting day.
If you are going to break out of a slump, do it in impressive fashion. That’s exactly what Anthony Rizzo did tonight as he blasted two monster home runs, each two run shots and that’s all the Cubs would need. Scott Feldman and company made those four runs hold up the rest of the way for the Cubs second win in as many games, the first time they have done that all year. Scott Feldman worked out of a couple jams thanks to some slick defense, the biggest play might have been Darwin Barney saving a throwing error and turning into a double play in the third inning. Shawn Camp also faced some trouble in his inning of work but once again was able to wiggle off the hook. Heading to the ninth with a two run lead Dale Sveum turned to Kevin Gregg and he delivered, pitching a spotless ninth for the save.
At The Plate – The Cubs scattered ten hits in this one while scoring four times. The offense really only came from three guys in this one, Dave Sappelt, Anthony Rizzo, and Darwin Barney. Rizzo had the huge game going 3-for-4 with two home runs, four RBI’s, a stolen base and two runs scored. Dave Sappelt getting the start for DeJesus filled in admirably going 2-for-4 with two runs scored. Barney was 3-for-3 with three singles in the victory.
On The Mound – Scott Feldman finally got that elusive first win tonight as he worked 6.2 innings giving up two runs on seven hits while walking two and striking out two. With first and second and nobody out in the third Feldman almost threw it all away, literally. Feldman grabbed a ball hit back to him and threw to second to start a big double play but the throw was high and if not for some defensive heroics from Darwin Barney this game might have ended differently. Shawn Camp and James Russell each had scoreless appearances to get the game to the ninth. Kevin Gregg took it from there as he worked a scoreless ninth for his second save of the year.
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Once again the Cubs put up a fight, and once again the Cubs lose a close game. The damage was done early as Samardzija and the Cubs gave up four runs, I said “and the Cubs” because they contributed to the runs just as much as Shark did. The game started with a Rizzo error, a soft single, a home run, a bloop double, a triple, and just like that it was 4-0. The Cubs came right back using the long ball to make it 4-3 in the third inning, but could never even the score despite many opportunities. The Cubs put the lead-off man on in almost every inning tonight and couldn’t do anything with it, this one was as frustrating as they come. Full credit to Samardzija for battling in this one, he could have folded in the first but didn’t and saved the pen. Dale Sveum was ejected in this one, and I was 110% happy with it, after a non strike three call with Braun at the plate (the same pitch Shark was called out on with the bases loaded) Samardzija was visibly upset, said something and got back on the mound, the umpire showed him up by taking his mask off and stared down Samardzija, first Castillo got in his face then Sveum did, well done Dale.
At The Plate – The Cubs issues with runners in scoring position reared its ugly head again in this one as the Cubs pounded out ten hits, but went 0-for-7 when it mattered with runners in scoring position. David DeJesus had a good night from the lead-off spot going 2-for-4 with a home run, two RBI’s and a run scored. Anthony Rizzo continues to make his hits count, he was 1-for-4 with a home run, his 5th of the season, an RBI, and a run scored. Luis Valbuena was 1-for-3 with his 2nd home run of the season. Unfortunately only one of those blasts came with a guy on base, and not getting guys in from second with less than two outs continues to drag this team down. Newcomer Julio Borbon made a perfect Cubs debut by getting thrown out stealing second to end the game, he slid to soon, it was reminiscent of Willie Mays Hayes from “Major League.” Ah, Cubs baseball, never a dull moment.
On The Mound – I mentioned it above, but Jeff Samardzija really showed a lot tonight as he could have very easily packed it in tonight after a rough first inning that really wasn’t all his fault. After giving up four runs in the first he settled down and gave the Cubs all he could going 7+ innings giving up five runs, four earned, on six hits while walking one and striking out four. The two pitches he probably wants back is the 0-2 pitch to Braun that ended up being a three run shot, and the first pitch to Gomez in the eighth that left the park. Kevin Gregg made his 2013 Cubs debut, it looked a lot like 2009 efforts, he gave up a hit and walked a batter, then he was removed. Camp came in and got out of a jam thanks to the base running exploits by the Brewers, specifically Jean Segura who stole second and got caught stealing second in the same inning, I really don’t want to explain it, I will post the video if it’s available.
Jean Segura ladies and gentlemen
Up Next – Another thrilling Cubs game for sure, as this team doesn’t know any other way to play, no matter what it’s going to be close. Edwin Jackson gets the start for the Cubs and he will take on Hiram Burgos who will be making his MLB debut, game starts at 6:10 PM CST on CSN Chicago.
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Now THAT is an early Spring Training game if I’ve ever seen one, and I didn’t even see this one. It was a long, messy game that ended with the Cubs on the losing end of an 11-7 final, and holding their breath about a potential injury to their franchise shortstop, more on that later. It was a tale of two games for both teams really as seventeen of the eighteen runs scored in the game crossed the plate in the first five innings. Cubs pitching finally had a rough day, and it started with Brooks Raley. Raley was really knocked around, he was able to go one plus inning giving up four runs on five hits while walking one and striking out one. Thanks to an early surge by the Cubs offense Raley wasn’t on the hook for the loss, that honor went to Trey McNutt. McNutt didn’t pitch terribly in his outing, but he was hung with the loss as he couldn’t bail out Raley after he left and allowed an earned run of his own in an inning of work on two hits. Jaye Chapman, and Alberto Cabrera were also beat up pretty bad today as they combined to give up five runs, four earned, on six hits over three innings. Chapman was particularly bad as he only lasted a third of an inning giving up three runs, two earned, on two hits while walking two. The foursome of Michael Bowden, Hisanori Takahashi, Shawn Camp, and James Russell stopped the bleeding but it was too little too late.
As I mentioned the Cubs bats were alive and well early this afternoon as they held a 4-1 lead and pushed across seven runs in the first four innings. Both Nate Schierholtz and Darwin Barney had two hits, and they were productive as Schierholtz knocked in one with Barney driving in two. Javier Baez drew some oohs and aahs with a screaming line drive base hit that almost decapitated the Dodgers shortstop, the hit had twitter abuzz, and drew comparisons to Gary Sheffield after the game from Dale Sveum. Back to the Cubs holding their breath, Starlin Castro was 1-for-3 on the day, but had to leave the game after pulling up lame crossing first base after grounding out. Castro said after the game that he was worried when he first felt it, but he is confident it’s more tightness then a pull, he’s feelings were echoed by Sveum as well after the game, fingers crossed.
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Seems like just yesterday we here at Born on Third were getting ready to cover Opening Day, and just like that it’s over. Crazy how time flies, and I didn’t expect it to go so fast given how bad the Cubs were this year. I was expecting just the opposite, for it to drag on and on, and I guess it did towards the end there but the reality of no Cubs baseball for four months is starting to sink in. Let’s take a look back at some of the surprises and disappointments that we all barely lived through, this season.
Let’s start with the disappointments, there were plenty of them, I mean the team lost 101 games, you know how hard it was to write about 101 losses!? Sure the record was disappointing, but one could argue that it was expected, maybe 101 losses wasn’t expected, but the Cubs were going to be one of the worst teams in the league, we knew that. Let’s dig a little deeper into that futility, we should probably put on a Haz-Mat suit before doing so. The one thing we heard all offseason was this new “Cubs Way” – well that was thrown out there to mean a lot of things, one being patience, no not by the fans (we do need that though), but by the Cubs as a whole at the plate. So how did that go, you ask? Not very good, the Cubs drew 447 walks this season, that comes out to less than three a game, and was good for the fourth fewest in all of baseball. You could probably guess that the Cubs OBP was terrible as well, it was, the Cubs as a team had a .302 OBP this year, 2nd worst in baseball. This is something that has to change, and it will on Theo’s watch, I believe that it will. It’s hard to see that vision come to fruition however when the team on the field in “year one” was so terribly bad at it, or just refused to do it.
Let’s take a look at some poor individual performances…
Volstad, acquired in the Carlos Zambrano trade was a disaster, I can’t even say that he showed flashes of brilliance, maybe a flash, but not flashes. Volstad finished the season 3-12 with a 6.31 ERA, I can’t even spin that into anything positive. Volstad had a huge opportunity this year and took a step back, but all is not lost on the gigantic right hander. He will have every opportunity to pitch for this team next year, that is squarely on his shoulders, his huge shoulders, seriously, look at a picture of the guy pitching, it’s cartoonish.
For the first month or so of the season it looked as if Dolis’ name was going to end up on the surprise portion of the year-end recap, then things went bad. Dolis lost the strike zone, in doing so his confidence disappeared and his ERA sky rocketed. Dolis went from being the closer of the Cubs after taking over for Carlos Marmol to pitching and struggling at Triple-A. Dolis was called back up to finish off the season but the numbers were not good. He finished the year 2-4 with a 6.39 ERA and four saves. He does have one thing the Cubs need in the pen, a power arm, so he will have a shot to pitch for this team next year at 25 years old. If he wants to do so he has to clean up the walks, as he issued 23 in just 38 innings at the big league level this year.
I debated singling him out here, only because he was clearly hurt since last year in Colorado so I’m not sure how much we can really take from his season. But a lot more was expected from Ian Stewart, on the plus side he did play above average defense at third base. His season was shortened by much-needed wrist surgery, he finished the year hitting 5 home runs and 17 RBI’s. He did show the ability to work the count and take a walk, but at third base he was and will be expected to be a source of production. It remains to be seen if the Cubs will keep Stewart in their plans moving forward, I would like to see what a healthy Ian Stewart could do.
Other guys that I would say had disappointing years would be Darwin Barney’s bat, a sub .300 OBP from him is not acceptable. Lendy Castillo had a 7+ ERA, but Castillo is so young and could be a huge part of this teams bullpen when they are contending. Steve Clevenger took a nose dive after a very strong start, Starlin Castro’s mental lapses and subsequent errors. I think Castro improved greatly defensively, I think the errors were a result of focus or lack thereof. Should I mention the 12 game losing streak? I just did.
Now onto the positives, sure there were some.
He lived up to the hype, and there was plenty of it heading into the season and that hype only grew as he tore the cover off the ball in Iowa. He finally was called up to the Cubs on 6/26/2012, he had two hits in that game and never really looked back. Rizzo finished the campaign hitting .285 with 15 home runs, and 48 RBI’s in 87 games, so just over half a Major League season. The biggest thing here is that Rizzo showed the ability to adjust to major league pitchers. I’m not just talking about rebounding from last years dud with the Padres, this year he had a few skids but came out of those before they became too overwhelming. He is the Cubs 2013 starting first baseman, and will be for many years to come.
Wow. There really is no other word to describe his 2012 season, I guess shocked would apply to me. I was just that, shocked at what Soriano was able to accomplish not only with the bat, but with the glove. Soriano made one error all season, think about that for a second. This is the same guy that made 11 in 2009, 7 in 2010, and 7 in 2011, he worked his butt off and showed real improvement. Offensively he set a career high in RBI’s with 108, folks the Cubs only scored 613 runs as a team this season. Soriano also found the long ball again hitting 32 home runs, the most in one season since he hit 33 in 2007. There’s no telling he has earned the right to be back here next year, and that is somewhat up to him, but we will see how the Cubs deal with him in the coming months.
I really don’t care what other people think of him, but Starlin Castro had a fantastic year, and a couple of mental lapses got in the way of making it something really special. Castro became the first Cubs shortstop to play in all 162 games, ever. That shows me that he wants to be out there, mental errors can come with that kind of workload, he probably needed a day off here or there to avoid some of that but he just kept going out there. Castro hit .283 with 14 home runs (a career high), and 78 RBI’s (a career high), he also had 29 doubles and 12 triples for good measure. Castro inked a 7 year extension during the season, he will be a Cub for a long time, and that is a good thing.
There are a number of other guys that deserve to be mentioned as bright spots this year. Darwin Barney’s glove, Barney tied a major league record for consecutive error-less games at 141, and got to everything on the infield it seemed. Carlos Marmol’s second half, after a terrible first half Marmol finished the season strong and looked to be back to his un-hittable self late in the year. Travis Wood stepped into the rotation and did an adequate job for this team, if he can replicate those numbers or even improve upon them he can be a serviceable back of the rotation guy for the Cubs. Bryan LaHair’s first half was fun while it lasted, and earned him a trip to the all-star game, no reason to ignore that. Welington Castillo played his way into the 2013 starting lineup behind the plate as
It was a trying year for many, Dale Sveum included, and as I said around the all-star break I think Dale Sveum gets an incomplete for this season. There was not enough talent on this team to win baseball games, not matter how he managed them. What I did like seeing was the compete level of this team on most nights, sure over the course of a 162 game season there are going to be lackluster efforts. For the most part this team really never gave up, I will be interested to see how Sveum does when he starts getting pieces he can use to compete in games on a consistent basis, that’s when he can accurately be judged as a manager. I could have written about so much more but I think that sums up enough of what happened this season without going on forever, I’m really excited about the direction of this team, most of that excitement stems from the minor league system which we will continue to profile all offseason. Patience is still something fans will have to have as the Cubs are not going to have a team ready to be a contender next year. Sure, they should improve, and that’s what we need to look for, and it’s important we see that, one step at a time, thankfully for all of us I think the worst part just ended.
Thanks for reading all season long, we don’t take breaks so we will have great Cubs coverage all offseason for you. Go Cubs!
One of the first things Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer mentioned when taking over the Cubs was how devastating late game losses can be. They were referencing the 2011 struggle of Carlos Marmol, who last year was anything but automatic in the ninth inning. Fast forward to today, and what seemed like a perfect opening day victory, enter the Chicago Cubs bullpen. With the Cubs holding a precarious 1-0 lead with two outs in the 8th inning Ryan Dempster exited the game to a standing ovation from the Wrigley faithful. That was the last thing Cubs fans had to celebrate this day, as Wood went on to walk three straight hitters, two of which he was way ahead of, to force in the tying run.
Big start for Samardzija, Dale Sveum said he wants to see Samardzija show command of his pitches and keep the ball down today against the Indians. Sveum continued, “He’s got to be able to use [off-speed pitches] in all situations,” Sveum said of Samardzija. “He learned a little bit of a lesson the last time out. You don’t overpower people in the big leagues unless you have a swing and miss fastball. He needs to use his movement, he needs to pitch inside, he needs to throttle bats. That’s what good pitchers do.”
Here’s how the Cubs lineup today:
Notes: Big, big roster decisions coming today, the Cubs brass will get together after the game today and all but finalize the 25 man roster. Sveum wants to treat the last 5 games or so as regular season games, so the roster needs to be set. Once it is set we will have all the info for you here on the blog so check back.
The Cubs exploded with the long ball in the 9th inning yesterday to beat the Reds 7-4. The Cubs entered the 9th inning tied at three, Welington Castillo led the 9th of with a HR, and Dave Sappelt rocked his former club with what turned out to be the game winning three run homer. Darwin Barney also chipped in with three hits on the afternoon.
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– George Cotugno