Smile Politely

Cubs Slip Up; Solutions Are Needed

Bad Week. No problem(s).

As the season has now reached its halfway point, at 1–5, this was the Northsiders most trying week to date. I did appreciate, however, that the one victory was the one I attended. It was nice to finally get to sing “Go Cubs Go” and watch the white flags go up from within Wrigley. Tip your cap to the palehose, they were able to return the sweep and are primed to win the AL Central behind high-powered bats and good pitching. Only a lack of offensive balance (not enough small ball) can stop the Sox from taking it into October. Back to the Northside, problems are starting to accumulate, but I don’t foresee any of them as insurmountable. Let’s get ‘em right out there…and then discuss…

Problem 1: Starting Pitching

Here are the starting pitching lines this week:

  • Tuesday: Marshall — 4 2/3 IP, 4ER
  • Wednesday: Lilly — 7IP, 4ER
  • Thursday: Marquis — 4IP, 7ER
  • Friday: Dempster — 2 1/3 IP, 8 ER
  • Saturday: Gallagher — 6IP, 5 ER
  • Sunday: Marshall — 7IP, 3 ER

Not one quality start until yesterday and it was too little too late.

Solution 1: Get healthy, move some arms around, make a trade.

Get Healthy: First all of all, we obviously need Zambrano back. We need a healthy and refreshed Big Z. Essentially he took an extended All-Star break three weeks early. He’s thrown good bullpen sessions and is scheduled to come back right when we need him against the second place ever-so consistent Redbirds this Friday. Missing Z in the number one slot, as with any team’s ace, puts starters in slots they don’t belong in. Like Marquis for example, he’s certainly not a # 3.

Move Some Arms: Word is Piniella is going to move hard throwing Sean Gallagher to the bullpen after his next start. This is a fantastic idea. Not only will it give the club another late-inning power arm option 2–3 times per week, it will take some pressure off the over-used Marmol and Howry getting to Wood in the ninth. Marshall can hold his own as the fifth starter as he proved last night and this will work for a few more weeks until…

Hendry makes a deadline trade: C.C. Sabathia, Erik Bedard, A.J. Burnett, Bronson Arroyo and Jarrod Washburn are all available for the right price. From that group only Sabathia and Bedard could have a major impact. So here’s what I’m saying. Get Sabathia or Bedard. Make it happen Jimmy! 2008 is the year and like my buddy Beau says “I’m tired.”

We’re all tired of this 100 year stuff Jim, just as tired as you. So get it done. I don’t want to hear that any Murtons, Cedenos or Felix Pies held this deal up. The time is now.

Problem 2: Clutch hitting

Here is how many runners the Cubs left on-base (LOB) this week:

  • Tuesday — 22 LOB
  • Wednesday — 30 LOB *including 10! by Fontenot and this was our only win
  • Thursday — 22 LOB
  • Friday — 15 LOB
  • Saturday — 23 LOB
  • Sunday — 17 LOB (only 7 hits)

You hear it time and time again, the best offenses know how to get ‘em on, get ‘em over and get ‘em in.

Solution 2: Get healthy so we can allow Piniella to go back to sitting the players who need to sit.

Piniella knows how to play the hot bats and he does it masterfully, but as we’ve seen over the past two weeks, this only works when the horses are all there. Example: Ronny Cedeno batted .378 in April and looked to finally be breaking out at the plate. He was more selective, working the count to his favor and was driving hitter’s pitchers into the gaps. In May, this started to disappear and in June, it’s gotten worse as he’s reverted to free-swinging Ronny. At the end of May, Cedeno had 10 BB and 12 K. In June he has 2 BB and 12 K’s. He’s headed in the wrong direction. Solution: Sit him down until he can get his swing back. Up until 2–3 weeks ago that meant Johnson in the OF so DeRosa could be at 2B, but with Johnson and Soriano out, DeRosa is needed in LF and Cedeno has to play.

Other players who should be sitting who are playing more because of injury: Fontenot, Murton, Blanco, Eric Patterson. Speaking of young Patterson, he played poorly this week. Left a ton of men on base and clearly is not comfortable in the outfield (I’d like to see Hoffpauir back up). Yes, Eric has the same thing that plagued his brother — complete lack of consistency.

Problem 3: St Louis and Milwaukee

Like him or hate him; You simply cannot say enough about the job LaRussa is doing with an average St. Louis team so far this year. Pujols wasn’t out as long as expected, but the Redbirds didn’t slip much in the standings with him on the shelf. They are missing their # 1 pitcher in Adam Wainwright, and haven’t had much good news about rehabbing aces Mulder and Carpenter. Yet, at the halfway mark, they sit well within arms length of the Cubs at only 2.5 back and 11 games over .500.

Last week I posed a question: “Will they (the Brewers) be back in the race at some point?” Kindly, the Brewers answered that question and after a sub-par week by the division leaders, now sit 4.5 back.

Solution 3: Win ballgames against the bottom of the division. Play better on the road.

The Cubs still have ten games against the Beermakers and twelve against the Redbirds, starting with a big series this coming weekend at new Busch. These three teams will be slugging it out all the way down the stretch and it promises to be a great battle. St. Louis visits Wrigley on the second to last weekend of the year and the Cubs end the season at Miller Park in Milwaukee.

Who’s ready to start the second half?

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