Sveum’s debacle last night, my thoughts

I’ve never been one to call for a managers head, or question a manager openly, unless their first name is Mike, and last name is Quade, that’s not what this is.  I’ve played the game, nowhere near the MLB level, and I’ve never been a manager so I cannot relate to what Sveum goes through on a daily basis with one eye on his team, one eye on his future, and one eye on the organizations future, wait, that’s too many eyes, I digress.  Sveum has been a popular target on social media, specifically twitter the last week, and really all the season when the Cubs flame out, but rarely receives any credit when he does make the right move and it pays off.  Now, I understand that this is usually the case with managers, but it’s worth pointing out that Cubs fans are slowly turning their hate and ire towards Sveum.  Last night didn’t help, and it added fuel to the fire of the keeping Shawn Camp decision, more on that later.

I don’t care what word you want to use, disaster, debacle, mismanaged, I think they all apply to last night.  After Matt Garza made a successful return to the mound going five scoreless innings giving up one hit while walking three and striking out five he was lifted by Sveum, this was after 82 pitches, and it was the RIGHT move.  Sveum screwed up last night, but one of the things he did right was lift Garza, Garza means more to the Cubs healthy with a no Garza Backdecision, then hurt again, and 1-0 on the season.  The head scratching came after he lifted Garza.  Shawn Camp was warming up in the pen during the fifth inning in case Garza couldn’t get out of some trouble, Garza did get out of the trouble, then Camp sat down.  Hector Rondon got up instead and was slated to come in for the sixth, that was the first issue I had.  Shawn Camp has been awful this year, Shawn Camp has shown signs of a dead arm this year, you don’t get him up to come in then sit him down, doesn’t work, usually doesn’t.  Rondon struggled, which can happen, then Sveum reached a new level of second guessing by bringing in James Russell, arguably the best arm in the pen…. in the sixth.  Sure, one could argue that this was a turning point in the game, but what happens after the sixth if Russell gets out of it?  Who’s left out of the pen to work the seventh, Camp?  The same Camp that just sat down an inning ago?  Marmol would probably come in for the seventh, but as you will read Sveum had no intentions of letting Russell get out of the sixth.

Let’s stop there for a second to discuss something else.  When Garza’s return to the rotation was announced, last week, Sveum said that Villanueva was going to go to the pen.  Okay, given that Garza was on a strict pitch count last night, Sveum had a day or so to figure out what he wanted to do when Garza was lifted, and he was most likely going to be lifted early.  So one would think that it would have made perfect sense to bring in Villanueva to not only get through the sixth, but piece together the game and have Villanueva get the ball to the ninth assuming he was effective.  But Villanueva was nowhere to be found, and I do understand that he might not have been available, but for argument’s sake I figured I would at least bring it up as another possible option for Sveum in the sixth.

Okay, back to what actually happened last night.  So in comes Russell in the sixth inning with the bases loaded and one out to face Pedro Alvarez.  I get the lefty/lefty match up thing in a big spot but after Russell walked Alvarez Sveum removed him.  The best arm in the pen faced one batter in the sixth and that was it.  If you are going10-4 Sveum to bring Russel in for that situation let him get out of it, or at least attempt to.  I don’t care if it’s a righty or lefty at the plate, Russell can get both out, instead he faces one guy, and leaves the game in the same situation as he entered it.  Now comes the decision to bring in Shawn Camp with the bases loaded and one out, he gets the first guy, but then is left in to face a lefty in Travis Snider, why?  If Russell is being lifted after one hitter because of matchup’s why is Camp being left in the game for an unfavorable matchup?  Probably because he was the third pitcher of the inning already.  But if this was the most important spot in the game, important enough to use Russell, why wasn’t Fujikawa brought in, or Marmol, both have been better than Camp, and that’s alarming given Marmol’s struggles.  Dale completely botched this whole situation as he then was forced to stick with Camp the rest of the inning because no one was left out of the pen if he went to a fourth pitcher in the inning.

So, what could have been done differently?  Garza had to come out, no question, I absolutely agree with that move.  I’m indifferent on bringing in Rondon in that situation, but I would have went with Marmol, but have a quick hook ready if he can’t find the zone.  Ideally, Marmol works the sixth inning, Russell works the seventh, Fujikawa works the eighth, and Gregg closes it out.  I don’t see any reason why Rondon HAD to be used, when in the past Sveum has shied away from using him late with a lead, but my biggest complaint is Russell for one hitter, makes no sense.  Now, this is the scenario if Villanueva was not available, if he was available then this game was the perfect spot for a former starter easing into the pen.  Use him for as long as he is effective then go from there, we’ve already seen our fair share of bullpen disasters, but I think this one could have been avoided with better decision-making from Sveum.

That brings us to the other question, why was Camp still available to be used in the first place?  To make room for Garza one pitcher had to be designated for assignment, and that pitcher was Michael Bowden.  Bowden was having a solid season on the heels of having a really good finish to 2012, but now the Cubs risk losing him completely, and he’s only 26, why?  I can’t really answer that question, and ultimately that decision comes down to the front office.  Both Theo and Jed said that all decisions regarding the roster are made with a large input from Dale, so my guess is that he lobbied hard for Camp, and the front office showed faith in their manager and player by keeping Camp around.  Garza for BowdenThe Cubs had options here, they could have placed Rondon on the DL with a “middle body” injury to by some time before making a decision, or they could have released Camp who looks done, there is nothing telling me that he is going to bounce back in any way, shape or form.  Let’s not forget the only reason the Cubs got him was that he was released by Seattle during spring training the year before.  He’s also 37 years old, all of these things just don’t add up in regards to keeping him, so Sveum and the front office have to share the blame on that one, and if I had to guess Camp won’t be on the Cubs by the All-Star break.  Been a while since I’ve been able to share my thoughts in this space, felt I needed to after last night, today’s another game, let’s get a win!

George header

With Garza returning Cubs DFA Bowden

Garza for Bowden

Many thought that Shawn Camp would be DFA’d when Garza returned, but it’s Michael Bowden who has been sent packing.  I suppose this makes sense as Dale Sveum loves Camp despite Camp’s horrible 2013 campaign and recently gave him a vote of confidence signaling that the Cubs were going to be patient with him.  Based on performance, the guy who should be going is Camp because Bowden has at least shown the ability to get guys out, while Camp hasn’t.  Now if Camp can regain his 2012 form then the Cubs pen becomes something to reckon with, but if he continues to flounder things could get messy, even more than now.  I’ll keep you posted on what happens to Bowden, wouldn’t be surprised to see him end up elsewhere.

George header

Villanueva makes case for spot in the pen as Rockies rout Cubs

Cubs 5-14 line

Full Box Score

  Carlos Villanueva was so very good for parts of this season, but the last few times out have not gone so well.  With the recent struggles it wouldn’t be surprising to see Villanueva head to the bullpen when Matt Garza returns.  I know who he can replace, Shawn Camp , more on him later, he didn’t help his or the Cubs cause tonight.  The Cubs were never in this one and it was over before it started it seemed as the Rockies jumped out to a 5-0 lead by the third inning.  Things got worse in the fifth as the Rockies added two more to take a 7-0 lead, that’s when the Cubs woke up, with some help from the Rockies.  The Cubs scored once in the fifth, and twice in the eighth to Helton 5-14make it 7-3 but they wouldn’t get any closer.  The Rockies tacked on two more runs in the ninth thanks to Carlos Gonzalez putting an exclamation point on his night with his second home run, he ended is evening 5-for-5 with two home runs, and three RBI’s.  Seems about right when it comes to Car-Go and the Cubs.  Two games in this series and two blow outs, one each way, wonder what tomorrow will bring.

At The Plate – The Cubs could only manage seven hits in this one, but they had their chances to score more than the four runs they did.  The Cubs were only 2-for-12 with runners in scoring position in this one, and they left seven men on.  David DeJesus was 2-for-5 with a run scored as he raised his average to .281 on the season.  Darwin Barney found some magic in this one, he was 3-for-4 with a double, a home run, and two RBI’s, that performance raised his average to .186, going to need a few more of those from Darwin.

On The Mound – Carlos Villanueva was hit hard all night, even the outs were loud outs.  Villanueva worked five innings giving up seven runs on twelve hits while striking out one, the loss dropped his record to 1-3 on the season.  Hector Rondon continues to prove he belongs out of the pen as he worked a scoreless inning while walking one and striking out one to lower his ERA to 3.68 on the season.  Michael Bowden also seems to be finding a comfort zone out of the pen, he worked two scoreless inning giving up two hits while striking out one.  The only thing comfortable about Shawn Camp is how opposing hitters feel in the box against him.  Camp is getting really close to be designated for assignment, he worked one inning tonight giving up two runs on three hits while striking out one, his ERA climbed to a robust 7.31 for the season.

Up Next – The rubber match of the series as Jeff Samardzija looks for his second win of the season.  He will be opposed by a familiar face, Jon Garland, first pitch scheduled for 7:05 PM CST.

Cubs 5-14 box

 

Game Highlights:

Thank you, Rockies
Barney goes deep, imagine that

George header

Cubs make Nats pay for mistakes

Cubs 5-11 line

Full Box Score

  Edwin Jackson match all everything Stephen Strasburg pitch for pitch for the first four innings, then the Cubs got a gift.  With two outs and nobody on in the top of the 5th Welington Castillo hit what looked like an inning ending ground out to Ryan Zimmerman.  Then Zimmerman’s horrible mechanics took over and he made an awful throw to keep the Cubs alive in the inning.  The next five Cubs hitters reached base, and when it was all said Jackson 5-11and done the Cubs led 4-0, with all four runs being unearned.  Not only did they take the lead but they knocked Strasburg out of the game after five then added on in the sixth.  Leading 4-1 the Cubs scored four more times in the sixth to take an 8-1 lead en route to an 8-2 victory.  Edwin Jackson earned his first win of the season, and the Cubs were outstanding with runners in scoring position, bizarro world, but I’ll take it.

At The Plate – The Cubs did get some help from Ryan Zimmerman and his awkwardness in the field, but they also took advantage.  The Cubs pounded out twelve hits and scored eight runs, six of those twelve hits were doubles, that gives the Cubs thirteen doubles in the last two games.    If that wasn’t enough, the Cubs were also 6-for-12 with runners in scoring position, that usually bodes well.  David DeJesus was 1-for-4 with a double, two RBI’s, a walk, and a run scored.  Anthony Rizzo has found his 2012 form, he was 3-for-5 with two RBI’s, he’s now hitting .288 on the season, he was hitting .173 on April 26th, think about that.  Alfonso Soriano was 2-for-5 with two doubles, and a run score in the victory.  One of the biggest hits came off the bat of Edwin Jackson, he laced a two-out, two-run double off of Strasburg to give the Cubs a 2-0 lead in the fifth.

Rizzo 5-11

On The Mound – Edwin Jackson was much better in this one, he worked 5.1 innings giving up two runs on four hits while walking two and striking out three to earn his first win as a member of the Cubs.  The bullpen was solid as well as they worked the final 3.2 innings to close this one out.  Shawn Camp went 1.2 scoreless innings giving up two hits while striking out two.  Hector Rondon continues to impress as he went two scoreless innings while striking out two.

Up Next – The rubber game of the series on Mother’s Day as Scott Feldman looks to keep things rolling and get a series win for the Cubs.  He will be opposed by left hander Gio Gonzalez, who has uncharacteristically struggled in the early going.  First pitch is scheduled for 12:35 PM CST on WGN TV.

Cubs 5-11 box

Game Highlights:

Edwin Jackson’s big two-run double
Rizzo makes an amazing bobbling catch
Rizzo’s big two-run single
DeJesus with a two-run single

George header

More of the same from Cubs in loss

Cubs 5-10 line

Full Box Score

  The same old things keep plaguing the Cubs, not hitting with runners in scoring position, pitchers making errors, unearned runs, wasted doubles, all were present and accounted for in this one.  Samardzija has no one to thank but himself for the Nationals taking a 2-1 lead in the second as he botched a ball right back at him then gave up a two out double.  Then Samardzija just lost the feeling for everything in the fourth and fifth innings Castro 5-10as the Nationals scored twice in the fourth and three times in the fifth to put this one to bed.  For a game that featured ten total runs on nineteen total hits it was played at a breakneck pace, ending in just over two and a half hours.  More on the Cubs misery with runners in scoring position below, they definitely had plenty of chances to keep this one close.  I mentioned in the series preview that the Cubs would have to play mistake free baseball and capitalize on chances when they present themselves to win, the Cubs proved that true tonight.

At The Plate – The Cubs pounded out ten hits, one more than the Nats, but were only able to score three times.  Of those ten hits seven were doubles, think about that for a second, and the Cubs only scored three times.  Starlin Castro was given a chance to lead off for the first time this year and had a solid game going 2-for-5 with two doubles, an RBI, and a run scored.  Anthony Rizzo turned in another solid performance going 2-for-4 with an RBI, he’s now hitting .276 on the season.  Ryan Sweeney had a solid day getting the start in center, he went 2-for-3 with a double, a walk, and a run scored.

On The Mound Jeff Samardzija needs to find a way to get through the fifth inning, or at least avoid the mind numbing innings that make his pitch count explode.  Samardzija’s record fell to 1-5 with the loss, he went five innings giving up seven runs, five earned, on eight hits while walking two and striking out five.  Hector Rondon, Kyuji Fujikawa, and Shawn Camp each worked a scoreless inning in relief to keep the deficit somewhat respectable.

Up Next – Game two of the series as Edwin Jackson takes the ball for the Cubs to face one of his former teams.  Jackson needs a good outing, I’m not saying his spot in the rotation is in jeopardy, yet, but a good performance could go a long way.  Stephen Strasburg will oppose Jackson and the Cubs at 3:05 PM CST.

Cubs 5-10 box

Game Highlights:

Great play by Barney
DeJesus’ RBI ground out
Soriano with the outfield assist
Rizzo’s RBI ground out

George header

Cubs snatch defeat from the jaws of victory

Cubs 5-2 line

Full Box Score

  Just when you think that the Cubs have lost every way possible they go and gives us another disaster.  At this point it seems as though the only thing that is holding the Cubs back, is the Cubs themselves.  Travis Wood was outstanding in this one, as he has been so often this year, and yet again, somehow, the Cubs found a way to lose.  After taking a wood 5-2late 2-0 lead on a clutch Scott Hairston home run the wheels fell of in the eighth.  With two outs and two guys on it looked like the Cubs were going to get out of it, then the wind took over.  Yonder Alonso, who had the day off until the eighth inning, hit a fly ball to right field, it turned into more of a pop up in short right field because of the wind.  Julio Borbon, who made a spectacular catch to retire the previous batter charged in and called off Barney, then flat-out missed the ball, that allowed the Padres to score and make it 2-1, and extended the inning.  That marked the end of the day for Wood, but not the end of the misery.  Shawn Camp came in and Welington Castillo completed boxed the first pitch from Camp to allow the game tying run to score, not only was it a passed ball on Castillo, but he completely dogged it while “chasing” the ball down.  The Padres runner didn’t break right away, and if Castillo hustles they have a great chance to get him at the plate, he didn’t, and when the dust finally settled the Padres led 4-2 and the Cubs were done.  Yet again, a series the Cubs should have won, ends in a split, so very frustrating.

Borbon 5-2

At The Plate – The familiar issues were there once again for the Cubs as they tallied nine hits in this one but could only score twice as they were o-for-7 with runners in scoring position.  Scott Hairston had the big blow for the Cubs, a two run homer in the seventh that looked like it would be the difference.  Hairston finished the day going 1-for-3 with two RBI’s, said home run, and a run scored.  Welington Castillo at least had a solid day at the plate going 2-for-4 with a run scored.

On The Mound – For the second straight game the Cubs starting pitching was the story, or should have been the story as Travis Wood was brilliant.  Wood carried a perfect game through four and two-thirds, giving up a hit to Kyle Blanks with two outs in the fifth.  Wood ended up going 7.2 innings giving up three runs on four hits while walking one and striking out three, and was tagged with the loss, mind numbing.  Shawn Camp was charged with an earned run, and didn’t retire anyone as he walked the only batter he faced.  James Russell didn’t have it today either as he gave up the difference making hit in two-thirds of an inning.  Carlos Marmol pitched a scoreless ninth inning, he hit a batter, and gave up a hit, but kept the Padres off the scoreboard.

Up Next – The Cubs welcome the Reds to Wrigley for a three game weekend set.  Carlos Villanueva will get the ball for the Cubs in game one and the Reds will counter with Mike Leake, first pitch scheduled at 1:20 PM CST, weather permitting.

Cubs 5-2 box

Game Highlights:

Hairston’s two run homer
Castro’s slick play
Barney turns a line out into a double play
Borbon’s great catch
Full video recap
Castillo’s error’s

Thanks for reading,
– George

Edwin Jackson still searching for a win, pounded by Padres

Cubs april 30 line

Full Box Score

The first twenty-five games of the Cubs season featured a fun fact, every game has been decided by four runs or less, that streak came to a crashing halt tonight in game twenty-six.  Edwin Jackson was hit hard and often in the early going as the Padres built an 8-0 lead in the fifth inning.  As the Cubs have done all year they fought right back and scored four times in the bottom half of the fifth to make it a game.  Unfortunately the rest of the Castro 4-30Cubs staff couldn’t miss any bats either as the Padres scored in the next three innings, five runs in total, to take a 13-5 lead in the eighth inning.  The Cubs staged a minor rally in the ninth inning to make the score look somewhat presentable but they really never had a chance in this one, and that can be attributed to Edwin Jackson’s continued struggles.

At The Plate – Nice to see the Cubs really pound the ball in this one, too bad it wasn’t enough to keep pace with the Padres.  The Cubs scored seven times on eleven hits, and were uncharacteristically good with runners in scoring position (3-for-9).  Starlin Castro had a big game going 2-for-5 with a home run, two RBI’s and two runs scored.  Anthony Rizzo is locked in at the plate, and now the results are starting to come, he was 3-for-4 tonight with two doubles, a walk, an RBI, and a stolen base.  Luis Valbuena, David DeJesus, and Cody Ransom all hit home runs in this one, Valbuena’s home run was a two-run shot, while DeJesus and Ransom each had solo homers.

On The Mound – Not a lot of success on the mound in this one and it started with Edwin Jackson who was torched.  Jackson went 4.2 innings giving up eight runs on eleven hits while walking two and striking out six, his ERA ballooned to 6.27 for the season.  Kameron Loe was okay in relief going 1.1 innings giving up one run on two hits while striking out two.  Hector Rondon didn’t fare too well out of the pen going two innings giving up four runs on four hits while walking one.  Shawn Camp was the only pitcher to escape unscathed in this one as he worked a scoreless inning.

Up Next – Game three of the series, and the Cubs will face a familiar face in Andrew Cashner.  The Cubs will counter with Scott Feldman at 7:05 PM CST.  Editors note:  Congrats Blackhawks on winning game one!  Go Chicago sports.

Cubs 4-30 box

Game Highlights:

Valbuena’s two-run homer
Castro’s two-run shot
David DeJesus’ reviewed home run

Thanks for reading,
– George