Baseball Toaster Cub Town
Missed It By That Much
2005-04-06 08:04
by Derek Smart

Ah, the first loss of the season. I'd say it's nice to get it out of the way early, but losing stinks, so I'd be lying. It was one of those games that never quite felt right - everything seemed a little off, and the team felt flat, like someone who had just gorged themselves on a delicious meal, failing to realize that it might slow them down during the evening's planned activities.

It's only game two in a very long season, though, so no reason to get down in the mouth! Perk up, chaps, and read along as I take you to: The Land That Bullet Points Forgot.

  • Much like I noted regarding Carlos Zambrano yesterday, Greg Maddux has three distinct performance types that look something like this:

    1. Complete Implosion
    2. Uncomfortable Competence
    3. Mild-Mannered, Professorial Mastery

    Last night, again, we saw #2, as Maddux gave up only three hits in the first four frames, yet saw two of them leave the yard, making his competence undeniable, and our discomfort palpable. This was followed by another feature of this type of Mad Dog outing - the Nibbled to Death By Ducks Inning.

    In frame five, Maddux only gave up three singles, but thanks to an unwise attempt by Nomar Garciaparra to tag out the lead runner on the second batter's ground ball, and the consecutive nature of the opposition's hits, two runs were plated that wound up being the difference in the game.

    Nothing was hit terribly hard, they were all just nibbles, and if they had been spread out over another inning or so, they would have been completely inconsequential. However, that's not a characteristic of many Maddux turns in this late stage of his career, so this time around it was the difference maker.

  • Luis Gonzalez V2005 = Steve Finley V2004

  • Corey Patterson's got a new swing going on, and I'm very curious to see what the results will be long-term. His old habit of letting go with his left hand on the follow-through always bothered me - it seemed as if he was sacrificing some late bat control for, what? A degree of comfort? Some extra power? The fulfillment of a Fred McGriff fetish?

    Now he's holding on with both hands through the entire swing, and while I will reserve judgment until a larger set of results are in, my initial impression is that it's a good thing to do. It seems like it should increase his ability to make minute, late adjustments to pitches, reducing his strikeouts a bit and garnering a slight increase in the solidity of his contact.

    I'm just guessing on that, as I don't have enough playing experience to be able to say for sure (anyone who can confirm or deny my contention, please do so in the comments), but my logic circuits tell me it should be so. Of course, it's also true that it won't help him decide that he shouldn't swing at the heater in his grill, but I'll gladly take any improvement in Corey's game, be it massive or marginal.

  • I knew it would come: the first in-game decision or series of decisions that set my blood to boiling. This year the initial infractions surrounded pinch-hitters, and those who have read much of my previous spillings can guess the names that raised my ire.

    First, we have the bottom of the seventh, where we have two outs and nobody on. The team is down two runs, and what is needed most of all are baserunners, so Dusty Baker turns to....Jose Macias? Really, folks, what purpose does this serve beyond getting Bob Melvin to pay for your dinner that night.

    If you want a man who can get on base and bring a little speed to the party, by golly, there's Jerry Hairston Jr. sitting right there. What one might be saving him for, I have no idea, but that's the only reason I can think of for not using him then. Do you want a chance to score? Bring in Jerry. Do you want to bring on the bottom of the frame? Bring in Jose.

    That's a small quibble, though, as there's only a marginal increase in the likelihood of scoring a run at that point since there were already two men gone. The real egregious offense came in the top of the ninth, Cubs down a run with two out and a man on first. Ideally, you want some power, but more than anything else, you want someone to not make an out, so naturally you turn to....Neifi!?

    Seriously, for what purpose was Jason Dubois put on the 25-man roster if not to pinch hit in that situation. True, Neifi! nearly got a base hit for his trouble, but the fact is he didn't, and his chances of doing something positive were smaller than Dubois' no matter how you choose to quantify them. It's just plain silly to have Dubois and Hairston completely unoccupied while your two worst bats go into the game, but unfortunately, I have a feeling this wasn't the last time we'll see this pattern.

Nothing like a little high dudgeon so early in the season. I'll cut down on my coffee intake tomorrow if things don't go well tonight - then maybe I can be more civilized. I have a bad feeling that might be necessary, since tonight's matchup pits Brandon "I Throw What Cubs Don't Hit" Webb (he and his sinker have an ERA of 1.10 against Chicago) against Professional Ticking Time Bomb, Ryan Dempster. Where's my bottle of Pepto?

2005-04-06 09:02:47
1.   Tom
thanks to an unwise attempt by Nomar Garciaparra to tag out the lead runner

But I think he got the lead runner. I looked at it about eight times on Tivo, and it looked good to me.

Also, can I toss out a Brenly and Kaspar are killing me yet? Early in the season, I know, but Kaspar's call on Lee's first game homer reminded me of a screaming 4th grade girl.

2005-04-06 09:06:06
2.   onetimer
I'm going to disagree with you on the Nomar play. It was a high chopper. Not sure he would have gotten the guy at first, and he did in fact tag the guy at second. Blown call by the ump, not an unwise play by Nomar.
2005-04-06 09:07:39
3.   Derek Smart

Yeah, he might have gotten him, but I was sure having trouble telling, and I guess my point is that if it was going to be that close you should probably take the out at first. I can live with a man on second with one out, but first and second with no one gone is trouble.

2005-04-06 09:13:54
4.   Derek Smart

Well, the guy running was the catcher, so that's a point in favor of him getting the out there. Although, I'm not well acquianted with Snyder's speed, and I didn't see how far down the line he was, so I'm definitely making assumptions that might not be based in reality.

Here's what I'll say - if he had a decent shot at the play at first, then he should have gone there, but if it was a coin toss as to which was more likely to turn out well, then he made the right choice.

I lean toward the first, however, because Garciaparra started to throw to first after the tag, which makes me think he was trying to get a fancy two.

2005-04-06 09:39:28
5.   Jordan
Derek, no matter the situation with Nomar...

Dusty just made a very bad decision in the 9th and 7th with Macias and Neifi. The only thing those two have is a proven track record of sucking. Hairston has proven he's younger and better, DuBois is A LOT better, and people make it seem like he has no experience at all in pressure situations. Listen, DuBois helped Iowa get far into the playoffs last year, and he's had a bazillion minor league at bats, I'm sure a few of those came with the game on the line. There was no excusing Dusty's decision. It was really poor.

2005-04-06 10:10:10
6.   Alex Ciepley
I actually burst out laughing when Neifi was announced as the final batter. Now, if this is still happening come August, I'll burst out crying.
2005-04-06 10:20:06
7.   10man
Dusty really is an old dog when it comes to his bench use. I think most of us expected him to make that exact move, but it doesn't make it any easier to watch.
2005-04-06 10:27:59
8.   Wrigleyviller
Two games into the season, and I'm already telling anyone who will listen that I'm on the Fire Dusty! bandwagon.

I wasn't sure if I even wanted Neifi to come through in that situation, because if he did no matter what he batted the rest of the year he may have gotten every single key pinch-hit AB.

Also, and I'm just curious, has any team ever gone 0-fer the year pinch-hitting?

I feel way too much like a Cubs fan right now.

2005-04-06 11:54:07
9.   naftikos
1)Check out what Neifi Perez did for Dusty Baker at San Francisco in 2003 (absolutely zip).
2)Check out what Alex Gonzalez did for the Cubs in 2003.
3)Add in the fact that Gonzo is one of the premier defensive shortstops in the game.
4)Add in the fact that Nomar Garciaparra is not
5)Add in the fact that Nomar Garciaparra has only a one year contract.
6)Add in the fact that Nomar Garciaparra is batting 3rd because he has power.
7)Add in the fact that Nomar Garciaparra has had trouble staying healthy.
8)Add in the fact that when he is out of the lineup he needs to be replaced with a hitter with some power or the Cubs offense suddenly drops off drastically.
9)Add in the fact that it would be nice if your "late inning defensive replacement" was actually better defensively than Nomar Garciaparra.
10)Add in the fact that Gonzo was available this winter as a free agent.

And who did we get? We got N. Perez.

2005-04-06 12:00:44
10.   Mike Jansen
The Nomar tag was awfully close, and I'm inclined to think he got it on in time but then again I'm biased. Nevertheless, the ump was out of position on that play and clearly didn't have a good view: Nomar's body was blocking his line of sight.

Oh well, it's just one game.

2005-04-06 13:28:23
11.   Bleeding Blue
Nafitkos - Neifi Played for SF in 2003, but you might remember that Dusty was with the Cubs that year. I'd also strongly disagree that Gonzo was a great defensive shortstop. He had a high fielding pct. but absolutley no range.

Wrigleyviller - Glad to have you aboard the bandwagon. I'll be expecting your dues in the mail any day.

BB-Leading the Fire Dusty campaign since June 04!

2005-04-06 14:22:21
12.   Tom
Re: A-gon.

Let us also remember that it was (former HS classmate of mine) Steve Bartman that kept him from being Bill Buckner. It was the Bartman-Gonzo one-two punch that put the cubs down, not just the Bartman hay-maker.

So, calling Gonzo "premier" is just plain wrong in my opinion, even if he never duffs one again.

Comment status: comments have been closed. Baseball Toaster is now out of business.