Countdown to the Deadline: Cubs Interested in Ryan Sweeney?

Today’s hot, well tepid, rumor of the day is a report out of Boston saying that the Cubs are interested in Ryan SweeneyPer BostonHerald.com writer Michael Silverman the Red Sox and Cubs have been discussing a deal that would bring Garza or Dempster to Boston in exchange for Ryan Sweeney and other players. 

“The Cubs are believed to be listening to offers for two of their starting pitchers: Matt Garza and Ryan Dempster. Sweeney would have to be part of a much larger package if either of those pitchers, particularly Garza, went to the Red Sox. . . .”

It’s an odd name to pop up in this discussion given the fact that the Cubs goal is to stock the system with prospects, specifically pitchers in any deal involving Dempster or Garza, and Sweeney is not a pitcher and not a prospect per say at 27 years old.  Maybe Theo and Jed see something, or maybe they are targeting a 2013 outfielder.  It could make sense, take it for what it’s worth, it’s just the start of a crazy month of rumors.

Thanks for reading,
– George

Cubs Finish First Half on a High Note

It’s almost a shame that the all-star break is upon us as the Cubs are paying their best baseball of the 2012 season.  With the win the Cubs won the series from the Mets, and finished their last road trip of the first half with a winning record (4-3).  The Cubs put this one away early as they pounded out five hits and four runs in the first inning off of Mets starter Jonathan Niese who had been lights out in his last seven starts.  The four runs must have felt like 10 for Ryan Dempster who was making his return from the disabled list, as Dempster has been the recipient of horrible run support all year.  Dempster was on a pitch/inning limit today so he only pitched five scoreless innings on four hits while walking none and striking out four.  Dempster extended his scoreless innings streak to 27, thus possibly increasing his trade value, the Cubs will most likely cash in on Dempster’s great season before the trade deadline passes.  With the Cubs leading 4-0 in the seventh Starlin Castro finished off his first half with an exclamation point as he absolutely crushed a three-run homer to give the Cubs a 7-0 lead and that’s how it would end.  Castro finished the day 2-for-4 with a home run, three RBI’s and a run scored.  Jeff Baker and Reed Johnson also chipped in with two hits in the victory, the Cubs finished the first half winning nine of their last fourteen.  Full box score and highlights after the jump.

Continue reading “Cubs Finish First Half on a High Note”

July 8, 2012 – Cubs lineup vs. Mets

Ryan Dempster returns from the DL today and will get the start against the Mets as the Cubs look to win the last game and series before the break.  Here is the Cubs lineup for today.

Johnson – CF
Castro – SS
Rizzo – 1B
Soriano – LF
Baker – RF
Soto – C
Barneu – 2B
Valbuena – 3B
Dempster – P

Go Cubs!!
Mark

July 6 – 8; Cubs @ Mets – Series Preview

New York Mets Logo - Mets scripted in blue with an orange outline

The Cubs close out the first half of the 2012 season in New York against the Mets this weekend.  This should be a pretty good series as both clubs are playing pretty good baseball right now.  The Cubs, in probably their best stretch of the season, have gone 7-3 in their last ten games, while the wild card leading (Tied with the Giants) Mets are 6-4 in their last ten.  The Cubs got the best of the Mets at the end of June in Chicago when they took two out of three.  However, I’m sure the Cubs haven’t forgotten the one game they lost in that series, by the score of 17-1.  The Mets are a well-rounded squad as they are 3rd in the NL in runs scored, and 7th in ERA.  Not too many ways to beat this team at the moment, if the Cubs want to be successful they have to get into the Mets bullpen which is the worst in the National League with a 5.07 ERA.  Full preview/breakdown after the jump.

Continue reading “July 6 – 8; Cubs @ Mets – Series Preview”

Cubs First Half in the Books

Can’t believe that the Cubs have already played 81 games, seemed like just yesterday the season started.  Here is a recap of what transpired over the first three months of the 2012 season, and my thoughts.

Let’s start with the bad –

  • When talking about the bad moments of the first half it’s hard to ignore the 12 game losing streak which took place from May 15 thru May 27.  Before the streak the Cubs were 15-20, and playing rather well, in fact given how well the Cubs played the majority of their games it wasn’t crazy to think that if the bullpen resembled anything close to Major League caliber that the Cubs would be at .500.
  • That leads me to Carlos Marmol.  Marmol was a disaster in the first 81 games of the season, although he has been pitching better of late.  Marmol was placed on the DL after a May 11th game against the Brewers, at the time he had an ERA of 6.35 and had been removed from the closers role in favor of Rafael Dolis.  Marmol had as many blown saves (2) as saves before being DL’d.  Since coming off the DL, and being thrown back into the closer role Marmol is 6-for-6 in save opportunities and has lowered his ERA to 4.74, it might have a lot to do with this.
  • Chris Volstad has to be mentioned here as well as he had and is having a horrific first half.  Volstad finished the first half, which included a trip to Iowa, with an 0-7  record and a 7.94 ERA.  Sometimes numbers don’t tell the whole story, in this case I don’t think they tell enough of it.  Volstad has completely lost all confidence, he’s pitching as if he expects to lose.  I guess that will happen to a guy that hasn’t won a game in a calendar year.
  • The record.  Coaches, players, fans, and executives alike knew that this season would be a rough one, they didn’t think it would be this rough.  I for one have no problems with the 31-50 record because it means nothing, this year was a throw away year, whether the Cubs were 25 under or 15 under, it’s just a necessary season in the process of rebuilding and I’m okay with that.
  • Geovany Soto, oh how the mighty have fallen.  After alternating good and bad years since his 2008 rookie of the year campaign it seems as though Geo has found some consistency, not in a good way.  It looks more and more like Soto was a one hit wonder, as he is in the midst of another wasted season.  Soto hit .163 over the first 81 games, with only five home runs.  He has been routinely outplayed by Clevenger and Castillo behind the dish.  I will even say that Koyie Hill provided more of a spark, that’s how bad Geo’s been.

Now on to the good, yes there has been plenty of that –

  • Alfonso Soriano, what a tremendous first half from a player that almost everyone, except Jed and Theo, thought was beyond done.  Not only has Soriano provided improved offensive numbers he has been spotless in LF.  Think about that for a second, Soriano has not committed an error all season in LF.  He has also played an above average defense, getting to balls he could only once dream about getting to.  He’s clearly hurt but he has earned a lot of respect back from me after I wrote him off.  Soriano finished the first half (again in games, I know the Cubs have 4 games left in the “half”) hitting .269 with 15 home runs and 46 RBI’s.
  • Bryan LaHair was another player that was bound and determined to prove himself, but for different reasons.  Coming into the season LaHair never had a starting role in the big leagues, an oddity for a 29-year-old with just a handful on major league experience.  But he took the opportunity and ran with it in the first month of the season by hitting .390 with five home runs and 14 RBI’s.  As expected he cooled off during May and June, but he has been great in July which also coincides with finding out he was elected to his first All-Star game.
  • Ryan Dempster entered the 2012 season amid trade rumors, and they just got louder and louder every time he pitched, mostly because he was outstanding.  Dempster has been a man on a mission in the first half, he has been slowed by a lat injury but he has pitched at a Cy Young level up until then.  If the Cubs bullpen or clutch hitting was consistent at all Dempster might be close to the lead league in wins.  He has settled for a 3-3 record with a sparkling 2.11 ERA.  I doubt he makes it past July 31st as a Cub, so enjoy it while it lasts.
  • Travis Wood who was brought over from Cincinnati in the Sean Marshall deal, didn’t make the team out of Spring Training.  He started the year at Triple-A and struggled, leaving some to suggest that Theo got fleeced in the deal.  Wood got an opportunity in the rotation at the big league level once is was clear that Chris Volstad was not up to par.  Wood has dominated ever since, thus shutting up all those people who questioned his existence on the Cubs roster.  Wood made nine starts in the first half and finished with a 3-3 record and a 3.05 ERA.  He might be a huge part of the future for this team.
  • James Russell and Shawn Camp’s work out of the bullpen cannot go unrecognized.  Both guys have been a stabilizing force in the back of the Cubs bullpen all year.  Russell sports a 2.27 ERA in 39.2 innings, while Camp has been just as good in his 43 innings, he finished the first half with a 2.93 ERA.
  • A late addition to this post has to be Anthony Rizzo.  After basically two and three-quarters months of Cubs fans pleading for Rizzo they finally got their wish in late June.  Rizzo has not disappointed one bit.  Not only is he producing at a high level, and is exciting to watch, he is giving Cubs fans a glimpse of  what Theo’s vision might look like down the road.  That’s important for Cubs fans to see, to know they are not suffering through maybe the worst season in Franchise history for nothing.  In the 8 games that Rizzo has been up with the Cubs he has hit .323 with three home runs and six RBI’s.  Not to mention he has had the game winning hit in three of those eight games, and the Cubs are 6-2 since his call up.

The in-between –

  • Long time Cub Kerry Wood retired during the first half of the season.  It was bittersweet for sure.  For a lot of Cubs fans, including myself, Kerry Wood was the face of the franchise growing up, in good times and bad.  Kerry worked his tail off to get in shape and put his injuries behind him to have a pretty solid career.  He was having a horrible season this year, and it was clear to him and many people surrounding the team that it was time to hang em up.  He did the right thing, walked away, and will be apart of this organizations future one way or another.

There were a lot of things in the first half that made us cover our eyes as Cubs fans.  But there were also a lot of things that opened them as well, this team competes, rarely gives up and is usually in a lot of games.  Right now that doesn’t translate to a lot of wins, but it’s something to hang on to from the first half.  This team will look much different in the second half once the trade deadline comes and goes.  Matt Garza, Ryan Dempster, David DeJesus, Geovany Soto, among others could all be gone.  Anthony Rizzo is already here, but he could be joined by Brett Jackson, and Josh Vitters at some point.  It’s something to be excited about, we’ve suffered through quite possibly the worst first half in team history, the saving grace is that it shouldn’t be this bad ever again.

Thanks for reading, go Cubs!
– George

Cubs Players of the Month: June 2012

June didn’t feature a horrific losing streak like May did but the Cubs still managed to lose 17 games.  The Cubs did get a shot in the arm when Anthony Rizzo was called up near the end of June, I almost selected him as the player of the month but I thought better of it.  Here are the players of the month for June.

Alfonso Soriano

 Everyone is expecting Alfonso Soriano to slow down, and to his credit he hasn’t.  A very productive month for Soriano as he hit eight home runs, and had 18 RBI’s, probably would have had more if he was in a better lineup.  Soriano’s effort hasn’t really helped the Cubs add up wins, but it might help the Cubs future tremendously.  If Soriano continues to hit the way he has he will be a sought after bat at the trade deadling at the end of July.  The Cubs will pick up most of Soriano’s salary, but the better he performs the better chance the Cubs have of getting something of value in return.

Alfonso Soriano June Highlights:







****

Travis Wood

Not many people predicted this one at the beginning of the month, but Travis Wood is my selection for the Cubs best pitcher of June.  Wood was outstanding in the five starts that he made in June, and he had to be given the opponents he was facing.  Justin Verlander, Barry Zito, Jake Peavy, and Johan Santana matched up against Wood, and Wood delivered going 2-2.  Wood gave up 26 hits over 31.2 innings, and he only allowed 12 walks over those innings, he really did a great job limiting the base runners.  Wood, who was acquired in the “Sean Marshall Trade” is really giving Cubs fans a taste of what Theo and Jed were thinking when they agreed to the deal with the Reds.  He is performing much like he did in 2010, if he continues to improve that deal could turn out to be a steal.

Travis Wood June Highlights:



Wood’s Lead-Off Double 
Wood’s Outstanding Performance

Special tip of the cap to Ryan Dempster as he went all of June without giving up a single run.  Dempster only made three appearances because of injury, but went 22.0 innings only giving up 12 hits while walking three and striking out 12.

Thanks for reading, go Cubs!
– George

Cubs Roster Move Madness; Dempster, Soto, Szczur

Most of the day has been quiet, but within the last hour thing went a little nuts.

*** Geovany Soto has been activated from the DL, and is in the starting lineup tonight.

***  Matt Szczur has been activated from the DL by the Daytona Cubs, this is great news, expect him to be back in the lineup this week, possibly tonight.

***  Ryan Dempster has been placed on the DL, this will not affect his trade value so we are told.  Lat tightness is why Dempster is hitting the DL. Randy Wells is expected to take Dempster’s start against the Sox.

***  Scott Maine has been re-called from Iowa

I think that’s enough for now.

Thanks for reading,
– George