Ernie Banks bestowing blessings on all of Cubdom
First up, Sully addresses Milton Bradley and five other negatives that need to be improved in the second half. We all know the first half issues of Milty, so we’ll skip to what Jim Hendry has to say about his belief in the mercurial/embattled/hot-tempered/insert adjective here outfielder:
“Milton has played pretty well the last couple of weeks, hitting .300
for the last 3-4 weeks, starting to show some progress left-handed and
swinging the bat good right-handed,” he said. “It’s just one of those
things. He had a couple of incidents where he got hurt. It kind of goes
with the territory.
“But I know we’re in a very forgiving town — if you perform well and
you win. So I see him being a little more relaxed. He seems to be
playing with a little more happiness and some energy, and I find his
teammates are fine with him. Lou is fine with him. If he plays like he
can, the negatives will be eliminated.”
Next up is clutch hitting. Everyone loves to talk about clutch:
The Cubs rank last in the league with a .218 average with runners in
scoring position, with more strikeouts (165) than hits (156). Last year
they were first in the league with runners in scoring position with
most of the same players. Alfonso Soriano‘s average with RISP has dropped from .276 in ’08 to .159; Mike Fontenot‘s from .323 to .182; and Bradley’s from .278 at Texas to .205 in Chicago.
Then we move on to Marmol’s walks (one per inning) and the wild and wacky corkscrew swing of Fukudome. Then we get to Rich Harden:
Opposing batters hit .183 against Rich Harden last year with 11 home
runs in 526 at-bats. In the first half, they have hit .271 against
Harden with 16 home runs in 288 at-bats.
And Sully rounds it out with a mention of the craptastic defense we’ve grown accustomed to seeing.
Bruce (I’m not Aaron’s cousin) Miles has a list of six people that will be key in any second-half Cub resurgence. First to be mentioned is Jim Hendry, mostly as the guy who replaced Mark DeRosa with Milty and Fontenot to disastrous results. He does give Hendry some room for redemption by saying maybe he’ll add a reliever and a hitter if he can find the money.
Next up is Soriano, we all know where this has been and is going. Third is Milty, see: Soriano, Alfonso. Number four is Carlos Marmol, and while I already mentioned it, let’s put it in italics here:
Marmol, who gave up 40 hits and walked 41 last year in 871/3 innings, already has walked 42 in 42 innings this year.
Fifth on the list is Demspter and his broken toe. Miles calls his 5-5, 4.09 first half lackluster. I’m not sure I’d go that far. But we’ll see what Mr. Dempster has to say:
“We’ve got to keep idiots like myself from doing stupid stuff,” he said
of the broken toe. “I was all right. Too many big innings. Other than
that, I gave us a chance to win a lot of ballgames, but it could have
been better. That’s the most unfortunate part about this? I really felt
like I was starting to throw the ball well again.”
Rounding up the list at number six is Sweet Lou:
“We have to swing the bats better in the second half
than we did the first half,” he said. “That’s it. That’s the theme. We
swing the bats, we stay healthy, we have a good chance to win this
“We’ve been through a lot this summer. I’m curious myself, believe it or not.
“We just need to improve in certain areas, and if we do we’ll be in the race. And if we don’t it’s going to be difficult.”
Gordo only managed a list of three things that need to happen in the second half. But he did manage a Jack Nicholson quote, so he gets a few points for that:
Twelve years ago, Jack Nicholson summed up the first 86 games of this
Cubs’ season when his movie character walked into a waiting room full
of psychiatric patients, looked around and said, ”What if this is as
good as it gets?”
Gordo’s list starts with getting/staying healthy, most notably Ryan Dempster.
The starting pitching is the only reason the Cubs aren’t 10 or more
games below .500. Regardless of any improvements in the problem areas,
the rotation will be the backbone of any competitive run.
And that’s going to take all the horses in that rotation. Rookie
Randy Wells (rotation-best 2.72 ERA) already has become as reliable a
fifth (fourth? third?) starter as there is in the league. But to ask
another rookie to approximate his production while Dempster undergoes
lengthy rehab probably is asking for breakdowns in the rotation.
Then numbers two and three are things we’ve seen in the other columns, one of Hendry’s offseason moves working (preferably Milty) and the need for Soriano to hit better. In this case, Gordo wants the Fonz to outperform Jake Fox:
Fox’s numbers since his recall from the minors: .313 with four
homers and 15 RBI, all starting May 27 and in fill-in duty. Soriano’s
numbers since almost two weeks before Fox’s arrival: .191 with two
homers and eight RBI.
Moving him down in the order helped. Now he has to help himself,
which he quietly predicted during a humbling homestand last week: ”Big
second half, papi.”