Welcoming Back Kerry Wood: Set-Up for Success

There have been some rather large events this off-season, signings that really jump off the screen at you, no?

Look familiar?

phillies rotation.png
Cliff Lee’s signing with the Phillies has significantly changed the landscape of the National League.  I don’t care how many heavy hitters you have in your line-up.  If they can’t drive through the ball on the sweet spot of the bat, or at least make contact and muscle one out of the stadium or deep to the wall for extra base hits, it doesn’t really matter.  Pitching wins championships and now with that rotation in place, Philadelphia has positioned themselves as the team to beat.  In not only the NL East, but in the National League as a whole.
In the year of the one-year contract, the Cubs managed to land Carlos Pena to man first base.  He’ll be expected to perform significantly better in the average department (.196 in 2010) and at the very least find a way to also stay on par in the power numbers department (28 HR, 84 RBI in 2010). In his time with the Cubs, Derrek Lee not only led by example in the clubhouse and delivered game changing presence at the plate, but his glove saved many errors from occurring over the years and in effect cancelled out a lot of would be runs.  The Cubs are going to need Pena to step up and play that same role.  A match of his .196 AVG in 2011 isn’t going to cut it.  The fans will have patience with the newest Cub but I can’t imagine the leeway lasting more than the first few weeks of the season.  If Pena follows ‘The Lee Way’ however, he will get off to a very slow start.  If we were able to give Lee time to get his season in gear year in and year out, we should at least afford Pena the month of April to do the same.
Think about how many one-run ballgames we lost last year.  Give us enough of those games back and we would have been playing meaningful games in a role other than spoiler, well past the middle of August.  Injuries and our record in one-run games in 2010 were two keys to the Cubs not living up to hopes/expectations.  Hopefully a new line-up featuring more Colvin in right with Fukudome as the fourth outfielder, a repeat All-Star performance by Byrd, a return to form by Soriano, sophomore success by Castro, a healthy Ramirez, another year full of quality starts by the rotation and an overall positive effect by inserting Pena into the lineup to help generate another run or two per game and we may be back, looking at the top of the standings in 2011.  I don’t expect Cincinnati go away, the Cards are always tough and Milwaukee is shoring up it’s pitching staff so it might take every single one of those things listed above happening in order for the Cubs to land on top next season in the Central.
Of course, this post was kicked off by talking about pitching making the difference.  We can add another couple runs per game (which would be great since we scored more than 80 runs less than our opponents did last year) however, if we can’t hold onto that lead late in the game, it won’t even matter.
And that…is where Kerry Wood comes in…by coming back.
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The return of Wood is the biggest headline of the Cubs off-season dealings and he’s going to be welcome with open arms, expected to carry the load late in the game.  Wood may just be the bridge we need to fill the gap from Marshall to Marmol.  Wood absolutely helps the Cubs form a powerful 7-8-9 inning tandem in Marshall, Wood and Marmol.  It will make the Cubs a scarier opponent going beyond the fifth inning with a lead.  Definitely, a lot scarier than the team was last year when we pitched so many youngsters in late inning, hold situations.
Wood’s return showcases the portion of heart that was lost on the team when Wood went to the Yankees.  He represents what could have been and now what could still possibly be. Kerry Wood isn’t the answer to all the Cubs’ problems.  I mean, just look at the list I put together three paragraphs back.  However, with two disappointing seasons behind them, the loss of their voice in Santo (whose funeral provided the opportunity for Wood and his wife to meet up with Hendry and kick off the dominoes it took to make this deal happen – and wouldn’t that be cool if while Santo can’t see the Cubs win the Series during his lifetime, his passing may be the thing that helps make the deal happen that pushes the Cubs over the hump to victory in 2011? – What a story that would be) and the great unknown ahead in what Quade can accomplish with a whole season, it will be nice to have a familiar face on the team again.  The face of a guy that never should have left in the first place, in my opinion.
The thing about Wood’s return is I can’t think of another pitcher that once served as a full-time starter, set-up man and closer for the same organization.  Can you?  Wood won Rookie of the Year and nearly led the Cubs to the World Series as a starter and tallied 34 saves in his one year as the Cubs’ closer, the same number he’ll wear back with the team as a set-up man.
Philadelphia may have landed Lee.  The second best pitcher dealt out there, Grienke, may have landed with the division rival Brewers.  However, when it comes to the Cubs making a difference with a pitching signing, it wasn’t about the big name or the big bucks.  The Cubs have a competitive, quality start-churning out five in Z, Demp, Wells, Gorzy and Silva if in fact those are the guys we go with come April.  So, it’s more so about a great pitcher with a lot left in the tank in short relieft, coming back to his home team, his home field, his home organization to carry the load, this time as the set-up man.
Hopefully this stint with the team will result in him setting up the team for ultimate success instead of let down.  Either way, it will be good to have him back and Chicago will be thrilled to once again be rooting for one of their own.  Go Cubs Go!

What would it take to make the Cubs unstoppable?

Yes, I’m interested in hearing your thoughts on the matter.  Yes, I have some ideas of my own.  Yes, I wanted a lame excuse to post this hilarious SNL digital short here on the blog because it’s hilarious.  Yes, I realize I used the word hilarious twice in that last sentence.  Yes, I know what a thesaurus is.

Things I believe would make the Cubs unstoppable in 2011: a miracle, an ace starting pitcher, more Colvin/less Fukudome, a power hitting first baseman, a repeat performance by Marlon Byrd, Soriano does his impression of Cocoon 3, Quade convinces Castro he’s up for rookie of the year honors again therefore avoiding any possibility of the young one having a mental sophomore slump, Marmol reaches 96 saves, Todd Ricketts appears on Millionaire Matchmaker, Say Yes to the Dress, International House Hunters and Celebrity Apprentice, the Cardinals close their doors forever, the Reds are moved to the American League and last but not least, we sign Mike Schmidt to manage our AAA club.  That’s right, take that, Phillies.

http://www.hulu.com/embed/cERl5D-flvffA27zxg1s9g

List in the comments what you think it would take to make the Cubs unstoppable in 2011!  Go Cubs Go!

New York, New York….It’s a Helluva Town!

The Cubs (5-7) roll into the big apple today, looking to kick off a four game series against the Mets (4-8).  Both clubs have struggled to provide run support to their starting pitchers, however, the Mets have had it slightly tougher in that their starters aren’t exactly providing quality starts either.  Tonight’s matchup at Citi Field:

Cubs at Mets

 

 

R. Wells
Wells ERA 2.92 REC 1-0
Last appearances:
4/14 vs MIL 6.1 IP, 4 ER ND, 7-6
4/08 at ATL 6.0 IP, 0 ER W, 2-0

 

 

J. Niese
Niese ERA 6.55 REC 0-1
Last appearances:
4/14 at COL 5.0 IP, 5 ER ND, 6-5
4/08 vs FLA 6.0 IP, 3 ER L, 3-1

Wells takes the mound tonight for the Cubs.  Last year, the rookie sensation caught fire and didn’t slow down, becoming the Cubs second most reliable pitcher behind Ted Lilly.  This year, with Lilly starting the season on the DL, Wells is expected to continue his success and not suffer a sophomore slump.  Once Lilly returns to the rotation (Saturday) there will be key decisions to be made regarding the 25-man roster and the starting rotation.  Until then, there are a week’s worth a games to be played and the current five man must keep the ship together until Ted is back to help right it.

Both the Mets and the Cubs are looking up at division leaders with 8-4 records.  As expected, those teams are the Philadelphia Phillies and the St. Louis Cardinals.  The Phillies are always a thorn in the Mets side and New York is going to have to figure things out quickly to stay in the race, even though the baseball season hasn’t even flipped the calendar page to May yet.  They will look to start figuring things out against the Cubs tonight.

The Cubs will hopefully face a tired and frustrated Mets team after their brutal series with the Cardinals this weekend which included a 20 inning marathon (the only game the Mets won over the weekend against St.L).  The Cardinals are still the team to beat in the Central so it would do us well to win the series against the same teams the Cards win series against.  I wouldn’t sweat Pittsburgh sitting above us in the standings just yet.  Like I like to say here at Prose and Ivy, “We’ll Always Have Pittsburgh”.  I believe that will again ring true in 2010.  A great start is bound to fall apart for the Pirates.

So tonight the Cubs must win a game they are expected to win once again.  They let us down over the weekend dropping a series to the lowly Houston Astros.  We can’t scoreboard watch this week and be disappointed time and again.  These are games we need to win so the offense needs to be there against a Mets rotation that is struggling to figure things out thus far.  And in order to do so, Lou has devised a brand new line up for three of the games this week where the Cubs face lefties.  A test drive if you will of a line up against opposing left handed pitchers that Lou thinks may result in greater production.  If that holds true, then tonight I could potentially be watching, firsthand, this Cubs line up take on New York at Citi Field:

Byrd CF

Baker 2B

Lee 1B

Nady RF

Ramirez 3B

Soriano LF

Soto C

Theriot SS

Wells P

So far this season, Theriot is 1-for-11 against lefties which forces Lou to move Theriot to the eighth spot in the lineup.  Although is production is down against lefties at the top of the lineup, considering he’s a guy who can get on base and is counted on to set the table for the bigs, for a number 8 hitter, even one who is struggling, we could do a lot worse.  Nady hitting clean up isn’t something I’m thrilled with.  I much prefer Ramirez in the clean up spot considering he’s a stronger power numbers guy and is healthier than Nady right now.  Nady can’t do this every time they play lefties since he is still recovering from elbow surgery.  However, considering they face a lefty pitcher three times this week against the Mets, you can figure I’ll see Nady in the line up in the 4 hold at least once.

I don’t know much about Byrd’s record in the leadoff spot.  He’s a level headed guy with a lot of potential and a quick start to the season so you don’t lose much productivity by replacing Theriot with Byrd there.  If you have Nady hitting clean up, you don’t have Fukudome playing so he’s not an option there.  Soriano is out and no one else makes sense.  That might be more the reason why Byrd hits lead off in this line up.  More of a process of elimination than anything really.  When Sori’s not playing and Colvin is in the line up I’m not sure that he fits in the no. 6 hole quite as easily.  He has shown great patience at the plate though and an ability to go deep so perhaps all Lou would have to do is write in Colvin’s name that day as opposed to Soriano and his line up is still good to go.  I have a feeling I may see the answer to that scenario at some point this week too with the Cubs playing the Mets here in New York for what should shape up to be an evenly matched, intense, equally important to both teams, four game series.

Likely pitching matchups for the next few games are as follows: Wells v. Niese tonight, Zambrano v. Pelfrey tomorrow and then Silva v. Perez on Wednesday evening.  On paper, I like our odds and I can’t wait to see Silva in person.  I’m surprised by his quick start to 2010.

citi-field-hot-water-new-york[1].jpgLooking forward to seeing the Cubs this week at Citi Field…I feel like the circus has come to town.  Go Cubs Go!

Big Deal

Admittedly, maybe its the lack of Cubs in this years playoffs…but I haven’t seen anything to get excited about.  Normally the playoffs are extremely addictive and I love watching every minute regardless of who is playing.  This year however, I haven’t seen anything to get all that excited about.

I am hoping that it is either going to be an Angels/Dodgers series…my number two choice because then we’d hear fun promos about a freeway series.  Not really fun as much as different which will keep things interesting.  A Yankees/Dodgers series…my first choice because I’d love to see Torre beat the Yankees.  For sports fans it provides the best story lines.  An Angels/Phillies series because I hate the Phillies and wouldn’t mind rooting for them to fall at the door of a back to back championship.  
The only combination I absolutely won’t watch is a Yankees/Phillies series.  I hate both teams with a passion and will find no joy in seeing either finish October successfully.
So, hopefully it’s Torre over the Yankees.  I get to see the Yankees lose and Torre have the last laugh.  The Cubs aren’t in it, so that sounds fun to me.
The film festival was a blast by the way.  I had more people show up to screen my comedy “Quarter Life” than any other film in the festival.  The audience loved it and it was a blast to screen a film I act in, in front of a group of people I’m not blood related to.  The filmmakers had a great time.  We screened over 75 films in four days and I look forward to screening more films next year.  One of those films may be a Cubs film I have in mind.  We’ll see how that goes though over time.
For those with teams still playing in the final four, enjoy.  I can’t wait for the 2010 season to begin.
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