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A Team Barely Alive
by Derek Smart
Looking for a reason why the Cubs had such a lousy week? To pervert a phrase from politics, it's the offense, stupid.
True, three losses in a row came in the ninth inning as the Cub bullpen was unable to hold ties or skinny leads in place, and I'll openly admit that's a problem, but the bigger issue lies in the fact that over the six games they played this past week, the Cubs scored more than three runs only once, and more than two only twice.
The opposition only scored 22 runs in those games - a 3.66 runs allowed per game that would be the envy of any NL team not playing in the southeast - so despite how one might feel about the unpleasant way many of those contests ended, the fact that the Cubs mustered only 14 runs during those tilts made the results themselves, if not the route to them, practically inevitable.
Unfortunately, yesterday's victory was not the result of more robust run support, but rather, a huge performance from Carlos Zambrano. This would normally be the spot where I cry me a river about Z going for 136 pitches, but you know what? I don't have the energy for it, and not only that, I'm not sure occasional outings like these are such a big deal for Carlos.
I'm not much on spotting players' natural pitching mechanics, let alone changes in them, so if anyone out there sees anything different and therefore worrisome from Z when he gets that far in a game, let me know. Alterations to his motion due to fatigue would be my primary concern, and with as hard as he was throwing at the end, I wouldn't be shocked if there was an increase in effort and resulting shift in mechanics that could eventually be problematic. I'm just not good enough to spot it, so if you are, clue me in.
Even so, I just wanted the Cubs to put up a 'W' more than anything else, and since I've rarely seen negative effects when Carlos goes that deep, I'm going to keep my mouth shut and enjoy the win until someone sets me straight.
A couple more things:
The team hit .197/.251/.363 for the week. Sounds like that's the root of the issue to me.
I was ready to write about how Neifi! had finally won his bout with amnesia - realizing that he was, indeed, that Neifi! - and normally anytime someone goes 1 for 20 you can officially declare their hot streak over. But when that one hit is a solo homer that constitutes half of your team's offensive output during a win that ends a seven-game losing streak, I suppose some slack is in order.
But watch yourself, Neifi! I've got my eye on you.
Speaking of Neifi!, there was an interesting juxtaposition of defensive ability in Saturday's game, with Neifi! at second, and Ronnie Cedeno over at shortstop. It's not often one gets to see both sides of the middle infield get tested by essentially identical plays, but that's what happened on two consecutive bloops to both foul lines.
First came the pop-up to left, and with Cedeno playing close to the middle, he had a lot of territory to cover. He made it though, and with relative ease, nearly having time to set up underneath the ball before he caught it. Compare this with the mirror image play that saw Neifi! set up in the same spot on the other side, having to dive for a ball hit to the near exact opposite spot on the diamond, and still unable to even touch it.
Don't get me wrong, Neifi! is still a fine defender, but it looks to me like we've got an even better option with the glove in Cedeno. I hope he gets some time to develop in AAA this year, because getting a young, cheap option at short who can hit his weight and pick it clean would be something I'd enjoy immensely.
It's the Mets tonight, and our first look at arch-nemsis, Carlos Beltran, in his new uni. We'll have one of our question and answer sessions later today with Mets blogger, Eric Simon of Amazin' Avenue and MetsGeek.com, so stay tuned!