This weekend marks the annual visit of the Cubs to the Front Range and I'm getting set to score game two of the series for MLB.com. Last night the Cubs were pounded by the Rockies 10-2 giving up three homeruns in the process to a team that hits them infrequently in Coors Field. That makes a three game losing streak although the team has played much better in July (14-12) and August (5-5) after compiling a 16-40 record in May and June.
Rich Hill, after two consecutive nice outings once agin struggled with his control walking five in 4 and 2/3 innings. In fact during the series the Cubs will start three rookies having called up Angel Guzman (0-2 5.68) to face the Rockies tonight. He pitched well in his last start at Iowa going over 7 innings and giving up just 3 hits, 0 runs and striking out 6. Tomorrow afternoon, in a game my family and I will attend as fans, Carlos Marmol (5-5 5.09) will go for the Cubs against Byung-Hyun Kim. I'm sure my daughters will get a kick out of watching Kim throw - either that or they'll be keenly watching the cotton candy, slushy, dippin dots and other vendors. Either way it should be fun.
In fact, my column this week on Baseball Prospectus, titled "Replacing Ricky Gutierrez" focused on the Cubs and their pickup of Cesar Izturis for Greg Maddux (who incidentally has a 1.50 ERA in 12 innings with Dodgers including 6 innings of no-hit ball in his first start). As I noted in the piece, I have no problem with the idea of flipping Maddux for anything of value, but in Izturis I'm afraid the Cubs have simply extended their search for the next Ricky Gutierrez, hence the title of the article, for another year and a half. Izturis simply won't be able to field well enough to justify his anemic offensive performances. They further compounded their problems by moving Ronnie Cedeno to second base where, unless his offensive production improves markedly, he and Izturis will serve as the anchor (literally) of the Cubs offense. Oh, and Izturis will be using his vast offensive skills in his "double leadoff" role so you gotta love that. And that's of course given the struggle the Cubs have in the outfield to produce runs already. One can only imagine what would happen if they were also getting a sub par contribution from the catching position where Michael Barrett has been outstanding (defensively that's another story as opposing baserunners have swiped 79 bases in 94 attempts (84%) this season).
And in a move that surprised no one who actually watched him pitch recently, Mark Prior was put back on the DL retroactive to August 11 with "right shoulder tendinitis". That officially makes it the third trip to the DL this season. His transaction history this year from ESPN:
July 15: Placed pitcher Mark Prior on the 15-day disabled list, retroactive to July 5, with a strained left oblique muscle...
June 19: Activated pitcher Mark Prior from the 15-day disabled list...
March 28: Placed Mark Prior on the 15-day disabled list [right subscapularis strain]
In other notes given the number of injuries the Cubs have had it's not surprising that going into tonight they've had six different rookies (Hill, Guzman, Sean Marshall, Marmol, Juan Mateo and Jae Kuk Ryu) start 44 games, second only to the Marlins 63. Those rookies are 13-20 with a 5.85 ERA in 229.3 IP. Not exactly Justin Verlander and Francisco Liriano like. You'll also not be surprised to learn that the Cubs staff leads the majors in walks at 484. They also, however, lead the majors in strikeouts at 849 (thanks in part to Carlos Zambrano's National League leading total of 162). The last team to lead the league in both was the Texas Rangers in 1989.
As far as the Rockies are concerned I notice from the lineups I just entered into the Gameday software that tonight may mark the first time all season that they have the lineup that to me makes the most sense for them and that I would have liked to see them use as often as possible.
Ok, so maybe not Barmes at short and instead Luis Gonzales or move Carroll to short and let Gonzales player second. But in any case they finally have Helton batting second where his ability to draw walks will be helpful and have inserted Ryan Spillborghs in center field. Spillborghs collected three hits last night and was hitting over .330 with 20 doubles in 68 games in Colorado Springs. He has good patience and is a better fielder than Choo Freeman by a long shot. The fact that the Rockies have given so many at bats to the duo of Freeman and Cory Sullivan is puzzling given the offensive woes of this team. In addition Yorvit Torrealba has hit the ball well, at least for catcher standards (.261/.309/.451), and clearly neither Danny Ardoin or J.D. Closser is the answer.