Write Derek at drksmart @ gmail.com
Write Phil at phil.bencomo @ gmail.com
Weekend at Bucco's
by Derek Smart
While the individual results weren't what I would have predicted, the overall outcome of the weekend series with the Bucs was about what one would expect, as the Cubs came out on top 2-1. I saw the action in fits and starts, but that doesn't mean I'll keep my yap shut, so grab some coffee, get a muffin, and enjoy these freshly harvested bullet points.
Besides being a great album, synchronicity can be a lot of fun as a lifestyle. Like when Alex writes about Neifi! and his incongruous success at the plate as a Cub, and about an hour later, a game begins where the aforementioned, oft ridiculed middle infielder goes 2 for 4 with an RBI double that scores the winning run. Ah, good times.
Next: Derek writes about his unbelievable lottery success an hour before the Powerball drawing.
I haven't been tracking this, but I just might start. Chad Fox is throwing a first pitch slider to nearly every hitter he faces, and not only that, but in my anecdotal observations I'd say that he's throwing the pitch at least 80% of the time overall. At some point, the league is going to get wise to this and start looking offspeed all the time, but I'm not sure that's a bad thing - it may even be Fox's plan.
What's going to be fun to watch in this is the cat and mouse game between Fox and National League hitters. We've already seen it during individual at bats where he'll lull a hitter to sleep with nothing but sliders away, then bust him inside with a fastball around 93-94 for strike three. I'd expect the slider to remain his most prominent pitch, but watch for how he mixes in the heat - how effectively he does that will make the difference for him.
Although he was aided by some truly atrocious baserunning on the part of Matt Lawton (I know he was going on the pitch, but he has to find the ball when he hears contact), Jeromy Burnitz' throw to double him up at first was a breath of fresh air. I'm not saying Sosa doesn't make that play, but I wouldn't be surprised if he couldn't.
Sosa's arm has been a liability for a while, and as he's lost power in it, his lack of accuracy has become more obvious. In other words, I believe that if Sosa were making that play, the ball could get there in time, but I doubt he could get it to the right spot. The ability of your outfield to make strong, accurate throws isn't their most important function, but it sure comes in handy on occasion, and this iteration of the Cubs is much better suited to make those type of plays.
I don't make many predictions, as I'm notably lousy at them, but here's something for everyone to chew on, with the hope that I'm not mucking up the cosmos in voicing it: Nomar's about to break out. Granted, 1 for 3 with a single and a sac fly isn't exactly cause to wake the kids, but it's less the results than how they were obtained that have me optimistic.
For most of the year, Nomar's been hitting the ball on the ground, consistently trying to pull outside pitches. Yesterday, he went with what he was thrown, and for the most part, made good, solid contact with the ball, managing to hit it in the air or on a line.
It's this latter factor - the solid contact - that has me the most enthusiastic. Even when he was hitting safely of late, he wasn't hitting the ball squarely, but that changed yesterday. If he can continue to keep it up - and I think he will - then we're about to be treated to the guy we signed in the first place.
Next it's two potentially trying two-game sets in Cincinnati and St. Louis. These games look to me like they'll be all about run prevention for the Cubs, and the quality of their starter's outings in particular: Will Kerry Wood be good again, ever? Will Mark Prior have two solid starts in a row? Will Big Z keep the ball in the yard against the mighty Cardinals? Will Ryan Dempster walk fewer than ten Redbirds? Don't know about you, but I can't wait to find out.