A Quick Note About Detroit
A trip around the second week of the season and nothing is particularly out of the ordinary. The biggest surprise remains the Tigers horrid start, and while still too early to mean much, the more concerning part for Detroit shouldn’t be that they’ve lost ten of their first twelve games, but how they’ve lost the games.
They are getting punished.
The well-publicized injuries in their bullpen have left them scrambling. A quick glance at their pen’s ERA and you’ll see ballooned figures like Zach Minor at 11.57 or ex-cub Francis Beltran at 7.36. What’s worse is that they put the D-Train on the DL yesterday. It’s too early to hit the panic button, but let’s just say I’m glad that 2–10 is not happening to the Cubbies.
The Central division has tightened up a little with St. Louis holding onto the top spot and Houston bringing up the rear. The Cardinals continue to pitch well, sporting the league’s second best ERA at 2.94. But if you take a look at what teams are batting against them (they are eighth with a .246 against), you wonder if the Redbirds haven’t benefited from playing Washington, Houston (the league is hitting .300 against the ‘Stros pitching) and San Fran. We’ll see. As long as they have Dave Duncan, the Cardinals will be competitive, I don’t care what anyone says about their lineup.
So, how about the Chicago club? What did you think of the second week? It certainly started well with a sweep of the Bucs, but I didn’t care for how they played in Philly at all.
Minus (-) Plus (+)
Minus (- ) to: The Cubs defense and their defensive effort
Twelve games = ten errors and that’s good for third most in the NL. They just don’t look smooth out there. There have been a number of near errors and/or poor choices (see Theriot looking a runner back to third while the apparently speedy Eric Bruntlett beat out a routine grounder to short yesterday). If we didn’t have Lee at first you can chalk up about five or six more too. Ramirez is making Lee work hard these first couple weeks, enough to start making folks wonder if his shoulder is still barking at him…
Minus (- ) to: Fukudome headbands
Wow. Lets all get one!
Give it a pass.
Minus (- ) to: Left-handed starting pitching
During Spring Training, I wrote about being concerned that Lilly might take a step back. I didn’t think he’d forget how to pitch. He’s not mixing his pitches and he’s allowed an atrocious 19 hits in 12 innings. Right now, he’s not fooling anyone. Rich Hill has been even worse. Piniella was concerned enough with his three-inning outing on Thursday that he put him in the bullpen this weekend for extra work. His release point is all over the place, particularly on his fastball. It’s early yet, but these two simply have to pick it up. With Z and Dempster pitching well and Marquis barely giving us five innings, we need the southpaws to pitch like they can. At 47 1/3 IP, the Cub relievers have pitched more innings than all other NL teams. It’s too early to tax your pen like that.
Plus (+ ) to: Extra Innings
The Cubs were 2–7 in extras last year and struggled mightily in the first half of 2007 to win the close games. This week the Cubs played extra frames in three games and won all three. Good teams find a way to win the close games. Win the close games and rubber games turn into sweeps.
Plus (+ ) to: The Long Reliever
Now this Plus could go to Piniella or possibly Larry Rothschild. Whoever decided to put Lieber in this role, you get a 2ON2OUT Plus. When Lieber was told he was the odd man out of the rotation all he did was tip his cap and quietly go about his business. How has he responded to his assignment? Quite well I think. 9 1/3 IP with a 0.00 ERA. He bailed out Lilly on Monday picking him up, pitching three and only allowing one hit. Then again on Thursday, when Hill forgot how to pitch, he stepped in for 4+ and gave the offense a chance to get to an over-the-hill Matt Morris. There are rumors that Liebs might replace Hill in the rotation. I think those are premature. Actually, I’d like to keep him right where he’s at. What do you think folks?
Let me put this forward for you to chew on. The long reliever is possibly the modern game’s most underrated role. Lieber is much more of a weapon coming at a team as a change of pace arm as he would be starting the game, when a team has time to prepare for him. Teams that have a solid long reliever seem to win more of the close ones. Lieber’s past his prime, but this is a perfect role for him.
Plus (+ ) to: Geo Soto
In my lifetime, the Cubs have never had a catcher who could:
1. Call a good game 2. Throw out a base runner 3. Hit for average 4. Hit for Power 5. Hit in the clutch.
Let’s face it, these types of catchers are hard to come by, but we’ve never had anyone even close to being as well-rounded as this kid seems to be. Even Jo–dee, Jody Davis, despite my sentimental feelings, was nothing more than a slightly better than average major league catcher. How about Damon Berryhill you say? Uh, yeah.
End of Week Two
One and a half games back. The Cardinals play the Brewers this week, time to gain some ground. Northsiders are back home to get their first look at Dusty in Red and then three against the Cubbie-swept Pirates (who, in turn, swept the Reds). Must see more from Lilly and Hill this week. Wood has been shaky at times: is he going to nail down the ninth or not? Can Dempster keep it up? An 0.69 ERA after two outings shouldn’t be overlooked. Piniella is tinkering and will continue to do so for the first two months, as he should. Remember, as the superior Billy Beane said in Moneyball: “Take two months to see what you’ve got, Two months to get what you need and Two months to make your run.”
See you next week folks.