On Monday, CC Sabathia put on another show in Milwaukee, going the distance while giving up just 2 earned runs to improve to 8-0 in 9 starts since being acquired by the Brewers in early July. Not to be outdone, however, Rich Harden helped the Cubs win on Tuesday by going 7 shutout innings, giving up just 2 singles and walking none en route to his 3rd win as a Cub.
Which pitcher has had a bigger impact? Can it even be quantified? Let’s find out.
(And, no, the “bigger” was not a reference to CC’s size)
Overall with Milwaukee, Sabathia has thrown 73 innings in 9 starts, averaging just over 8 IP per game. He has had only one start in which he did not finish 7 innings, which not surprisingly was his only no-decision for the Brewers (although I can’t seem to remember who that was against…) In that department he trumps Harden, who has been removed after 5 IP a number of times as the Cubs try to protect his arm. We all know how that worked out in his first start with the Cubs (See Here). Harden has gone 42 IP in his 7 starts, an average of 6 per game. The impact on the bullpen is tremendous, as anytime Milwaukee can keep theirs from coming into the game it definitely improves their chances of winning. 6 IP will qualify as a quality start, so the Cubs can’t complain if they get it every time out from Harden. And something tells me he will be able to find some extra in the tank come the stretch run and hopefully October.
In those 42 innings with the Cubs, Harden has allowed just 40 baserunners (26 hits and 14 BB), equating to a WHIP of 0.95. Amazingly, 5 of those walks came in the win against Atlanta, and 3 were back-to-back-to-back in the 2nd inning. Sabathia has been nearly as good in that department, allowing just 75 baserunners in 73 IP (1.03 WHIP). In terms of ERA, both have been outstanding, with Harden’s at 1.50 and Sabathia at 1.60. If you discount Harden’s outing against Houston where he allowed 5 runs (4 earned) on 8 hits, his other 6 outings consist of 3 where he allowed 1 ER and 3 where he allowed 0, which equates to just 3 runs in 37.2 IP! As much as I like Sean Gallagher, no way he puts up those numbers. While Sabathia’s individual game lines aren’t always as pretty, he has thrown 5 CGs (including 3 in a row).
The one area in which Sabathia clearly trumps Harden is at the plate. CC loves to hit, plain and simple, and he has shown that by going 6-for-28 (.214) with 1 HR and 4 RBI since joining the Crew. Harden still looks like he is getting adjusted to batting, but did get his first career RBI on Tuesday (a big one at the time). The impact of having a pitcher in the 9th (or 8th) spot in your order who can hit is huge. I wish I knew how many more times Soriano batted with runners on when Zambrano was at the plate vs. the other pitchers, but I do know it definitely helps the guy batting in front of the pitcher if you can’t assume he will be the 3rd out.
Overall, both players have had tremendous impacts on the staff and will be outstanding in the postseason (should the Cubs make it there). To me, it appears the acquisitions in essence cancelled each other out, as both teams improved substantially.
Approximately 48 hours ago, I wrote this in an entry in response to the C.C. Sabathia acquisition by the Brewers: “Plus, there are still 24 days left of the trading season, and Jim
Hendry will be working the phones trying to add another starter to the
Cubs rotation (Rich Harden perhaps).”
Well it certainly didn’t take 24 days, as Jim Hendry moved quickly to acquire the A’s right hander on Tuesday. Harden and righty Chad Gaudin head to Chicago while CubBlog favorites Sean Gallagher and Matt Murton head to Oakland along with Eric Patterson and minor league catching prospect Josh Donaldson.
The immediate reaction to this trade was “YESSSSSSSSSSSSSS!!!!!!!!!!!!!” After some consideration, however, my next reaction was that we just traded for Mark Prior v2. Unhittable when healthy, but unhealthy more often than not. Harden has already pitched more innings this year (77.0), than in 2006 and 2007 combined (72.1), and that includes a 3-week stint on the DL this year for shoulder problems. This of course only includes innings pitched in the majors, not in simulated games (a category in which Mark Prior is among the all time career leaders).
In my opinion, there are two ways to look at it.
1) The Brewers acquired the best available player with a package of prospects that the Cubs were unable to match. The Cubs went out and acquired the next best available player and paid a pretty good price.
2) The Cubs acquired a player in Harden who is one of the best, but has a very bad history of inability to stay healthy, and whose fastball has dropped in speed over his past few starts.
So look at it whichever way you choose, but if (and I did say if) the Cubs take this team into October, and Carlos Zambrano and a healthy Rich Harden are slated to start games 1, 2, 5 and 6 of a playoff series, is there anyone who would pick against them? I may be biased, but I know I wouldn’t.
Lost among the Harden hoopla is the acquisition of Chad Gaudin. Don’t call this guy a throw-in, as he will provide much needed long relief in place of Gallagher (or Marquis who refuses to accept a role in the pen). He has pitched very well in Oakland, has played for Lou briefly in Tampa, and will be a welcome addition to the Rajun Cajuns squad forming along with TheRiot and Fontenot. In all seriouness, his presence in the pen will give Marmol and Howry some additional rest, which may be the biggest key in the Cubs run towards the postseason.
2-week absence, the CubBlog makes its triumphant return. So what did I miss?
played 13 games in 14 days, winning 9 and dropping 4, bringing them to
a season high 20 games over .500 at 45-25.
The stretch included a 3-0 record at home, and more importantly, a 6-4
record on 2 road trips. The Cubs have 13
of their next 19 on the road (3 on the Southside), so keeping up their winning
ways away from Wrigley will be extremely important.
So what did we learn from these past two weeks?
1. The rotation is improving
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster, the rest of the rotation had been a bit
suspect through the first 2 months of the season. Ted Lilly opened the season with an ERA near
10, Jason Marquis couldn’t get past the 5th inning, and the 5th
starter spot was a mess until Sean Gallagher claimed it in late May. Since then, Marquis has gone 3-0, Lilly is
2-1 (his only loss was a 2-1 defeat), and while Gallagher has gone 0-2, he has not
allowed more than 3 runs in any start. The
Cubs are considering going after another starter (I’ve heard anywhere from C.C. Sabbathia to Randy Wolf to Greg Maddux) in the event that Rich Hill
doesn’t make it back to the majors this year, but if the back 3 of the rotation
continue to pitch this well, it may not be necessary, although you can never
have too much pitching.
2. Jim Edmonds reads my blog
Seriously, there is no other explanation. Since I blasted him in an entry on May 29th, (Here) all he has done is gone 18-for-44 (.409), with 2 big HRs and 14 RBIs, while starting 12 games. More importantly, he’s only struck out 3 times in that span. I still have trouble cheering for the guy, as I’m convinced he’s just waiting to drop a crucial fly ball in October and then rip off his Cubs uni to display a Cardinals shirt, but it’s hard to be unhappy when he hits a game-tying opposite field HR in the 9th inning of a game that the Cubs go on to win.
3. Marmol and Wood have pitched a lot
And I mean A LOT. Marmol has appeared in 37 of the Cubs 70 games this year. For those of you who like math, that’s more than half. Bet you thought I was gonna give you a percentage. Well I am, it’s 52.9%. Anyway, in those 37 games, he’s gone 43 innings already. To compare, in all of last season he threw in 59 games, recording just 69 1/3 IP, meaning he’s nearly 2/3 of the way to both games and innings pitched totals from last year.
The comparisons to last year don’t really apply to Woody because he didn’t return from the DL until August 5th. (Editor’s Note: I was at that game and got chills just thinking about it.) But it should be noted that it’s his first full season as a RP, and his 35 appearances this season are more than he has ever made in his career. Yes, he’s only thrown 37 innings, and has done very well in nailing down 18 of 22 save chances. But you have to wonder why he’s made 35 appearances with only 22 save chances. Occasionally a 2-run lead will become a 4-run lead, and there will be the extra-inning game where he needs to pitch in a tie game, but 13 of them already? Seems like a lot.
All this is just to say that while the back end of the bullpen has been outstanding thus far, Lou needs to (and he is) keep an eye on the use of these star relievers so they last into September (and hopefully October).
4. The Cubs will miss Fonzie
Not his defense of course, but his bat. In 38 games since returning from the DL on May 1st, Soriano was batting .323, with 13 HRs, 35 RBIs, and most importantly, 5 SBs, including 3 in his final 7 games leading up to the injury. While that will obviously be missed in the lineup, the Cubs have Lee and Ramirez to pick up the power slack, and Reed Johnson, Ryan Theriot and maybe even Kosuke to fill in at the top.
The silver lining behind this, if we must look for one, is that Soriano will be able to rehab his legs for 6 weeks while recovering from the broken hand. He clearly came back early from his first stint on the DL, and only in the last week did he look like he was regaining his form. Now he has a chance to concentrate on his legs for at least a month, which will hopefully make him a threat on the bases when he returns.
5. The Cubs are never out of any game
I know the immediate thought is of the 10-9 comeback win against Colorado that happened before the 2-week absence, but the Cubs have come back from behind against Atlanta and San Diego in the past two weeks, and had a chance to win every game with the exception of the complete game shutout thrown by Kuroda of the Dodgers. It’s a great feeling to go into the 9th inning with thoughts of a comeback win rather than being resigned to a defeat.
The Cubs are in Tampa tonight for the first of 3 against the AL Wild-Card leading (too early?) Rays. A good matchup tonight between Ryan Dempster and Scott Kazmir will set the tone for the series. After that, the Cubs welcome the Sox for 3 and the Orioles for 3 at Wrigley before finishing up interleague play against those same White Sox at the Cell.
Now I’m not the oldest of Cub fans, but in all my years as a Cubs fan I cannot remember a homestand of this length where the Cubs won them all. (Editor’s Note: It last happened in 1970). Coming off two tough extra inning losses the week before in Pittsburgh, the Cubs played well in sweeping the Dodgers and then took it to the reeling Rockies. Now they take their 7-game win streak with them to the West Coast for 3 against the Padres and 4 against those same Dogers. 23 of the Cubs’ next 32 games are on the road (although 3 of those are on the Southside), so this will be an important stretch for the team with the best record in baseball. Now I’m not trying to get ahead of myself, but the last time the Cubs had the best record in baseball on June 1st was the year 1908. Just makes me excited all over to think about that.
Today’s game saw Derrek Lee get his first full day off in 2008, and Micah Hoffpauir started in his place, both at 1st base and at the 3 spot in the order. I found it interesting that Lou didn’t take Lee’s absence as a chance to try a new lineup, but if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. It was a close game all around, with the Cubs getting contributions from nearly every man on the roster in this one. As much as it pains me to say it, Jim Edmonds is improving at the plate, coming up with a big RBI double in the 4th and an even bigger bases loaded walk in the 5th. After loading the bases with none out, Rockies starter Ubaldo Jimenez struck out Fukudome and Soto, before issuing the run-scoring walk to Jimmy. Watching Kosuke and Geo strike out from up in Section 421 made me feel like I was watching the Cubs of old, but we were able to come through with 2 outs thanks to the good eye of Edmonds. And just for good measure, Soriano blasted a hanging Manny Corpas breaking ball onto Waveland to make sure the Cubs completed the sweep.
On the other side of the ball, Sean Gallagher appears to have sewn up the 5th spot in the rotation. He looked masterful at times, striking out 8 (including 4 in the first 2 innings), but was a bit wild at times, hitting 2 batters. He left after 5 2/3, and the bullpen shakily took it from there, with only an inherited run scoring off of Michael Wuertz in the 6th. KWood looked good in the 9th, and even though he got to a couple of 3-ball counts and nearly hit ANOTHER batter, he got the job done 1-2-3.
After a beautiful day for baseball on Monday, Chicago
weather did what it does best, and brought out 40 degree temperatures and winds
blowing straight in for Tuesday and Wednesday nights’ games vs. the
Dodgers. The Cubs managed 8 runs total
in the 3-game series, but it was enough to sweep it as the Dodgers only managed
3. I know the NL West has become this
year’s NL Central, but a sweep is still a sweep.
Overall, the Cubs gave up 23 hits in the 3 game series, and
allowed another 13 men to reach via the walk, but the important thing is that
only 3 of those guys crossed home plate.
All 3 starters pitched great, Dempster and Gallagher each allowed only 1
earned run in 7, while Zambrano did the same over 8 IP. The pen combined on 6 scoreless innings, but was
a bit shaky in doing so. On separate
occasions Marmol and Howry loaded the bags with 1 out, only to narrowly, but dramatically work their way
out of the self-created jams.
In Wednesday night’s game, the 10th inning
game-winning rally was started by Mike Fontenot’s 1-out double off Chan-Ho
Park, who yes, is still pitching in the major leagues, earning that $60 million
dollar contract. Part of the reason
Fontenot was able to come through in that spot because he had started the game
the night before, and wasn’t “ice cold” coming off
the bench. Another part of the reason
Fontenot was able to come through was because Chan Ho Park was pitching.
Much like Tribune Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan, I’m
getting sick of all the talk about Soriano.
Yes, I’m sick of his act in LF, and his inability to run anymore, but
instead of worrying about what he’s not, I think it’s time to start focusing on
what he does bring to the table. Even
though he is in a “mini-slump” at the plate, he came through with the game
winning hit last night, and he is only 1 grooved fastball away from starting up
another hot streak.
On a different note, Jim Edmonds sucks. I could say it more elegantly but I don’t think
he deserves the time it would take for me to figure out how to do that. Some say he is still a Cardinal sabotaging
the Cubs from the inside, and I don’t doubt it.
Outside of the one outstanding catch he made in Houston, (See
Final Paragraph), I don’t think he has contributed one positive thing of
any value to this team. The experiment
failed Mr. Hendry, it’s time to let Jimmy go.
One alternative that has floated around rumor mills is Kenny
Lofton. While I think bringing back
Kenny would not be such a bad idea, the reason he isn’t playing for a major
league team right now is money. He was
offered contracts, but not to his liking, so he continues to sit out. The reason we took a flier on Edmonds is
because it was for the league minimum.
Kenny wants a bit more than that, and I think a platoon of Reed Johnson
and Kosuke Fukudome in center will work out just fine.
Note: This picture doesn’t have anything to do with the post, but it looks pretty cool.
The Cubbies let another early lead slip away Wednesday night, again thanks to one big inning. On Tuesday and Wednesday the Cubs took leads in the early innings off HRs by Aramis Ramirez and Derrek Lee, and each time the Astros put up 4 runs in an inning and the Cubs failed to score again. The 4-run threshold is holding firm, reach it and win, fall short and lose. It’s pretty much that simple.
Sean Gallagher came off his first major league win a little shaky, as it was the first road start of his career. He allowed 5 runs on 8 hits with with 1 walk in 4.2 innings, but most came in the deciding 3rd. Gallagher allowed 3 straight singles to start the inning, and after striking out Lance Berkman for the 2nd time in the game, gave up a big fly to Carlos “The Cub Killer” Lee, putting the Astros up for good. The Cubs only managed 2 hits the rest of the way, falling 5-3.
With Soriano rested we got our first glimpse of Fukudome in the 2-hole and Micah Hoffpauir in the outfield. The 1st inning was what all Cub fans wanted to see, Kosuke drawing a walk and scoring on the Lee homer, and Hoffpauir knocking a double, his first ML hit, and scoring on the Soto base knock. This might cause Piniella to move around the lineup, but as we all know, he doesn’t like to talk about that.
Losing 2 of 3 to a hot Houston team isn’t the end of the world, but coming off an incredible homestand and a victory in game 1 of the series, the Cubs definitely wanted to carry that momentum through the rest of the series and on to Pittsburgh on Friday. Yes, it’s the Pirates, but road games haven’t proved easy for the Cubs this year (see Washington, Cincinnati, St. Louis).
Even after dropping 2 of 3, the Cubs are still 9 games over .500 with a 1.5 game lead in the Central, and there is a lot of baseball to be played. Off day tomorrow and then off to Pittsburgh for 3 before a 7-game homestand against the Dodgers and Rockies.
Note the guy in the green polo. Great effort to make the catch right there.
It took about a month and a half, just like last year, but Soriano is hitting like we’ve expected him to. 2 more HRs today gives him 4 in the last 4 games, 3 leading off the first inning. I think everyone who said we needed to leave him out of the lineup because when he returned from the DL is rethinking that. Sure he was cold originally, but who wouldnt be? He clearly needs time to heat up and he won’t get that sitting on the bench.
It’s also clear that his quad / hammy / legs aren’t right. Watching him rounding 3rd trying to score against Arizona was painful for everyone, including Soriano is my guess. He will never be the player we signed him to be in terms of stealing the bases, but you aren’t gonna find many better hitters out there.
I’ve always been a Sean Gallagher fan, and I’m happier now than ever that he wasn’t included in the Brian Roberts trade. Yeah, Roberts would be great, but where would we be without Gallagher giving us 6 strong innings today. Lieber was ineffective starting and we needed Marshall and Hart out of the bullpen, so Gallagher was the guy and he came through. I think he’ll be a great starter down the road.